News

Memphis Court Clerk Worker Indicted on Federal Charges

Tammy Brooks Carpenter, an employee of the Memphis City Court Clerk’s office, faces a federal charge of embezzlement for partially voiding payments of 188 traffic tickets and keeping some of the money drivers paid, the Memphis Daily News reports. The indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Tuesday alleges Carpenter embezzled about $24,000. Ed Stanton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said Carpenter was “targeting and preying upon vulnerable members of the Hispanic community,” in the scheme.

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U Visa Mischaracterized in Villegas Story

A story in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today mischaracterized the benefits provided by a U Visa, as reported by Nashville Public Radio. This visa is actually a special temporary visa for crime victims, which allows the holder to remain in the United States legally on a temporary basis, but does not automatically grant citizenship. Under certain circumstances, a U Visa can allow the holder to apply for a green card after three years.

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Woman Shackled While Giving Birth Granted Temporary Citizenship

The Nashville woman who was arrested while nine-months-pregnant during a routine traffic stop in 2008 then shackled to a hospital bed during labor and after giving birth has been granted a U-visa. The visa provides a path to citizenship specifically for victims of violent crime. Juana Villegas’ case drew national attention to the issue of how pregnant women are treated while incarcerated and to Nashville’s 287(g) program. Now repealed, the divisive program let local police enforce federal immigration law. The city now leaves immigration status checks to federal agents, Nashville Public Radio reports.

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Volunteer Lawyers Needed for Immigrant Children

Most of the nearly 60,000 Central American children who have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year still do not have lawyers to represent them in immigration court, and advocates are scrambling to train volunteer attorneys to help with the massive caseload, the Associated Press reports. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, among others, is training private attorneys on the country’s immigration laws and how to work with traumatized, Spanish-speaking children. The Times Free Press has the story.

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Grant Will Fund ‘Know Your Rights’ Training for Immigrants

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center/Immigrant Rights Project has received a grant of $8,830 from GiVE 365, The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ dollar-a-day philanthropy program. The group will partner with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and Memphis Immigration Advocates to provide compressive “Know Your Rights” training to immigrant communities in Memphis. Formed in 2010, GiVE 365 members donate $365 a year, pool their money, and vote on the annual grant recipients. A total of $62,600 was given this year to support collaborative nonprofit efforts, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Immigration Law Has Rock ‘n’ Roll Roots

The argument over President Barack Obama's legal authority to defer deportations begins 42 years ago with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, WSMV reports from the Associated Press. In 1968, Lennon was convicted of possession of "cannabis resin" in London and faced deportation in New York by the Nixon administration. In time, the effort to extend Lennon's stay in the United States would become an integral part of the legal foundation the Obama administration relied on in 2012 to set up a program that has deferred the deportation of more than 580,000 immigrants who entered the country without documents as children. The extent of Obama's legal authority is now central to the White House deliberations over what else Obama can do — and when — without congressional action to reduce deportations and give many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States the ability to stay and work without fear of being removed.

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Judges Push for Independent Immigration Courts

Two judges called on Congress last week to tap into its constitutional power to make the swamped immigration court system an independent judicial agency, the Commercial Appeal reports. Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, and executive vice president Judge Denise Noonan Slavin spoke out about challenges in immigration courts and the need for independence. The immigration court system receives 1.7 percent of $18 billion allocated for immigration law enforcement. So far, cost has been the objection to making the immigration court system independent, but it would be a more efficient system, the judges said.

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U.S. to Consider Spousal Abuse in Immigration Claims

The Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals has determined for the first time that domestic violence victims may be able to qualify for asylum in the United States. The ruling by the board that decides appeals from federal immigration courts is significant because it means that the government now recognizes domestic violence victims as a potentially protected class of people seeking refuge in the United States. The decision establishes a broad and firm foothold for an untold number of women whose asylum claims have been routinely denied in the past. WATE has more.

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Immigrant Children Filing for Asylum, Not Citizenship

A WREG story referenced in yesterday’s edition of TBAToday incorrectly reported that the current wave of immigrant children are trying to become U.S. citizens. TBA Immigration Law Section Chair Bruce Buchanan points out that the children are not attempting to become U.S. citizens, but are filing for asylum and, if granted, they would become asylees. After a year as an asylee, they can apply for permanent residence (green card) and continue in that status for a number of years. At some later date — at least 5 years depending on the age they obtained the green card — they could apply to naturalize to be U.S. citizens.

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Immigration Court Cases Start this Week

Court cases for Central American children seeking asylum started this week, WREG reports. An immigration lawyer told WREG there was a preliminary hearing yesterday where families learned how the process works and what to expect in the future. The Memphis court reportedly has 7,000 active cases on its docket, an overwhelming number for the two judges. Attorney Barry Frager said some of the originally scheduled court dates are likely to be delayed so the border children cases sent to Memphis can be heard first. He also expects two more judges to come on board by the end of the year.

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Many ‘Dreamers’ Not Signing up for Deportation Relief

Only 55 percent of the 1.2 million immigrants who were eligible for relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 have applied, according to a new Migration Policy Institute report. Under DACA, unauthorized immigrants who entered the United States before the age of 16 and were under the age of 31 in 2012 can win the right to work in the country if they can meet certain residency and education requirements. The Memphis Business Journal has more.

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Immigration Courts Work to Speed up Children’s Cases

Immigration courts are speeding up hearings for the tens of thousands of Central American children caught on the U.S. border after criticism that the backlogged system is letting immigrants stay in the country for years while waiting for their cases to be heard. There are 375,000 cases before the immigration courts, and many immigrants wait months or years for a hearing. Instead of bumping children to the back of that long line, the courts are now giving each child an initial court hearing within three weeks, according to the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review. A spokeswoman for the courts didn't answer questions about how many children's hearings had been set under the new plan or which courts had scheduled additional hearings. The Daily Times has more.

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House Abandons Plan on Immigration Crisis

Short on votes, House Republicans abruptly abandoned a bill today to address the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border after last minute maneuvering failed to lock down conservative support. The developments were a disappointment for many House Republicans who were eager to produce a legislative solution to the situation on the border. Today marked Congress' final day of action ahead of a five-week summer recess. WSMV has more from the Associated Press.

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Veteran Attorneys Form Immigration Practice

Nashville-based immigration attorneys Milen Saev and Rose Hernandez have announced the opening of Saev Hernandez Immigration Practice PLLC, the Nashville Post reports. The two partners, who previously practiced immigration law at Rose Immigration Law Firm, focus on employment-based, family-based and humanitarian immigration law.

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House to Vote on Scaled Down Border Response

House Republicans unveiled a scaled down bill Tuesday to address the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border by sending in National Guard troops and speeding migrant youths back home, the Associated Press reports. The bill would cost $659 million through the final two months of this fiscal year, less than the $3.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama. The measure also includes policy changes that would allow unaccompanied youths who have been arriving at the U.S. border to be sent back home without judicial hearings. House leaders predicted the bill would be on the floor on Thursday. If it does pass the House, the bill is certain to be rejected by the Democratic-run Senate, which was set to take a procedural vote on its own border package Wednesday. WRCB TV has the AP story.

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Immigrant Advocates ‘Baffled’ by Haslam Letter

Immigrant advocates say they are baffled by a letter that Gov. Bill Haslam sent to President Barack Obama saying his administration should have been informed about the placement of 760 unaccompanied immigrant children in Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, unaccompanied minors have been placed in households with approved “sponsors” — typically their own families and relatives — for years. “They’re not getting dropped off. They’re getting placed with their mom, dad, aunt or uncle,” says a spokesperson for the group. The Tennessean has more on the story.

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Sheriff’s Office Responsible for ICE Checks

A story in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today indicated that metro Nashville officers are responsible for checking arrestees’ immigration records under the Secure Communities program. Instead, it is the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department that is participating in the federal program and is responsible for conducting the checks.

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Nashville Keeps Revised ICE Program for Now

Two years ago, Nashville replaced the 287(g) program with a nationwide effort called Secure Communities. Recently, other cities that had signed up for the program have cast it aside, saying it is too expensive, targets minor offenders and exposes local governments to Fourth Amendment violation lawsuits. Advocates for the immigrant community say Nashville should stop participating as well. But for now that seems unlikely, reports the Tennessean. Mayor Karl Dean says the sheriff's department has not reported any problems with the program, which allows the department to check an arrestee’s immigration status, hold him for 48 hours and arrange for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation if justified.

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Haslam: No Notice for Immigrant Children Sent to State

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Bill Haslam is protesting the placement of 760 undocumented immigrant children in Tennessee without any notification to state officials. “It is unacceptable that we became aware via a posting on the [Department of Health and Human Service] website that 760 unaccompanied children have been released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to sponsors in Tennessee without my administration’s knowledge,” Haslam wrote. “Not only was our state not informed prior to any of the children being brought here, I still have not been contacted and have no information about these individuals or their sponsors other than what was posted on the HHS website and subsequently reported by media.” Humphrey on the Hill has the full text of the letter.

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House GOP Outlines Response to Border Crisis

House Republicans announced today that they will recommend dispatching the National Guard to South Texas to help overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, increase the number of immigration judges, provide assistance to Central American nations and change a 2008 trafficking law that guarantees immigration hearings for Central American youth. Republicans also reportedly are looking to pare down President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request, the Associated Press reports. In response, the White House, Democrats and immigration advocates called for action on a "clean" spending bill without any controversial policy changes attached. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Civil Rights Groups: Children Facing Deportation Should Have Counsel

Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit today in federal court against Attorney General Eric Holder and other U.S. officials. They contend it is "fundamentally unfair" to require children facing deportation hearings to proceed without legal representation and are seeking a court order requiring the Department of Justice to arrange to provide defense counsel for juveniles throughout the country. Recently the Obama Administration said that protections for unaccompanied immigrant children in a sex-trafficking law are partly responsible for tying the government’s hands in dealing with the current influx of children crossing the border alone. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, signed into law by then-president George W. Bush, was originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking. The bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin. The ABA Journal has more from the New York Times.

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Obama Seeks $3.7 Billion to Deal with Border Crisis

Calling the situation a humanitarian crisis, President Barack Obama today asked Congress to provide $3.7 billion to cope with a tide of minors from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States. The funds would be used to provide shelter and medical care for unaccompanied children, hire additional immigration judges, increase prosecution of smugglers, increase surveillance along the border and help countries repatriate those sent home. The president also said he wants to provide the secretary of homeland security additional authority to speed up the removal of the children though he did not include that policy change in his request. Obama plans to discuss the crisis with faith and local leaders during a visit to Texas on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. More than 50,000 children have arrived in the United States since October. WRCB has the AP story.

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Obama to Bypass Congress on Immigration

President Barack Obama vowed Monday to bypass Congress and pursue unilateral changes to the country's immigration system, Fox News reports. The president said he is forced to go it alone because the House has failed to act on a comprehensive overhaul. In a written statement, House Speaker John Boehner called the announcement "sad and disappointing," and said executive orders "can't and won't fix these problems." Obama’s actions today direct the attorney general and director of Homeland Security to move "available resources" to the border and ask a team to "identify additional actions” he can take within existing legal authorities. Those recommendations are due back by the end of the summer.

The president also wrote to congressional leaders today asking for more flexibility to deal with the surge of undocumented immigrant children along the border, increased penalties for those who smuggle vulnerable immigrants and emergency funding to deter additional border crossings.

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Homeland Security Chief Testifies on Deportation Before Judiciary Committee

Government lawyers will review how the Obama administration releases some criminal immigrants facing deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Wednesday. WRCB reports that Johnson, the former top lawyer at the Pentagon, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his agency's lawyers will review federal policies, which he said were based on a Supreme Court ruling, that require the government to release criminal immigrants if the U.S. can't send them to their home country within six months. Johnson said he wants to know several things, including whether the government can hold them in immigration jails as threats to national security or public safety.

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New Justice AmeriCorps to Hire 100 Lawyers, Paralegals

Young lawyers and paralegals are being sought to provide legal assistance in immigration proceedings to children who come to the United States without documentation. Officials say about 100 lawyers and paralegals will be enrolled as members of AmeriCorps in a new division called "Justice AmeriCorps" – a partnership between the Justice Department and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the new program Friday. WATE News 6 has the AP story.

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