News

Judge Rules Immigration Move Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled yesterday that President Barack Obama's move to halt deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants violates the Constitution — but it's not clear that the ruling will have any immediate impact. Pittsburgh-based U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab, a George W. Bush appointee, became the first judge to rule on the legality of Obama's executive overhaul of immigration rules when he issued his unusual opinion in a criminal case. The Justice Department shot back that the judge was "flatly wrong" and his ruling wouldn't halt the implementation of Obama's immigration policies. WCYB has more.

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DOJ Responds to Immigration Challenge

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is urging dismissal of a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration, the Associated Press reports. The suit, brought by Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, argues that the program will serve as a magnet for illegal entries into the United States and will place additional burdens on his law enforcement resources. Responding to the lawsuit, DOJ argues that Arpaio does not show how he will suffer any injury from the program, making his claims purely speculative. In addition to Arpaio’s suit, 24 states have joined together to challenge the program on two fronts: that Obama violated constitutional limits on presidential power and that his action will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis along the southern border. WRCB-TV has the AP story.

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Obama Calls Nashville ‘Role Model’ for Other Cities

President Barack Obama was in Nashville Tuesday to garner support for his recent immigration actions and reiterate his call for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Obama appealed to civility and morality as well as economic arguments for immigration reform. He said he came to Nashville because it has one of the fastest-growing immigration populations in the country and can be a role model for other communities. “Nashville is leading the way in getting this conversation right,” Obama said at a town hall meeting at the Casa Azafran community center, which provides social services to immigrants.

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AG: Tennessee Undecided on Suing Obama Over Immigration

Tennessee has not decided to join a 17-state coalition in its lawsuit against the Obama administration that challenges the president’s executive order easing immigration restrictions. "The fact that Tennessee is not currently one of the plaintiffs does not mean that Attorney General Slatery has decided against joining the lawsuit or that he is opposed to appropriate legal action," said Leigh Ann Jones, a spokeswoman for Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. The Tennessean has the story

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House Attacks Obama Immigration Orders

House Republicans today issued a stern rebuke to President Barack Obama over immigration, passing a bill declaring his executive actions to curb deportations "null and void and without legal effect,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The bill stands little or no chance of advancing through the Senate, so is mostly symbolic. Obama's executive actions last month will extend deportation relief and work permits to some 4 million immigrants here without documents, mostly those who have been in the country more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

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Obama to Give Immigration Speech in Nashville

President Barack Obama is visiting Nashville next week to deliver remarks on the nation's immigration system at Casa Azafran, an immigrant community center on Nolensville Pike. The Dec. 9 visit will mark Obama's second trip to Nashville in less than a year. In January, Obama visited McGavock High School where he gave a speech on education, the Tennessean reports

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Section Chair Provides Details on Immigration Executive Order

In a newsletter today to members of the Immigration Law Section, chair Bruce Buchanan breaks down President Obama’s executive order on immigration, explaining six key provisions of the order. Then on Dec. 10, Buchanan and fellow Nashville lawyer Sean Lewis will present a one-hour webcast on the executive action and other changes in immigration policy. Learn more at TBA CLE.

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What is Included in President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration?

By Bruce Buchanan*

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced sweeping changes to immigration policy which will allow up to 5 million undocumented workers to obtain work authorization cards for three years and not be subject to deportation (also called removal) during this same three year period. In addition, President Obama’s Immigration Actions will expand the “provisional waiver” program, clarify the meaning of “extreme hardship” in provisional waiver cases, take actions to better enable U.S. businesses to hire and retain highly skilled foreign-born workers, expand opportunities for students to gain Occupational Practical Training (OPT) and set new removal priorities.[i]

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Slatery Decides Not to Join GOP AGs on Immigration Letter

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has confirmed that he did not join a group of Republican colleagues from other states in issuing a statement vowing “appropriate action” on President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration. In a statement today, Slatery said he will give “careful consideration to all the relevant facts” before making an informed decision. The letter, organized by the Republican Attorneys General Association, was signed by 19 current and incoming attorneys general. The Greeneville Sun has the story from the Associated Press.

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Immigration Law CLE

Learn more Presdient Barack Obama's new executive order on immigration as well as many other changes in immigration policy on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. Immigration Law section members will receive a discount. Learn more at TBA CLE.

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Obama Announces Immigration Changes

President Barack Obama last night announced a plan to allow up to 5 million of the country’s 11 million undocumented residents to obtain legal status in the U.S, the ABA Journal reports. As outlined in a press release, the president’s immigration reform plan calls for increased border enforcement, deporting felons rather than families and allowing parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents permission to stay here temporarily if they register, pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their fair share of taxes. In response to the announcement, Rep. Andy Holt (R- Dresden) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R- Mt. Juliet) are filing a joint resolution requesting Gov. Bill Haslam file a lawsuit against the Obama Administration, citing the commandeering of state resources, which they say would be required to execute the President's Executive Order, and the lack of enforcement of deportation statutes as warrant for legal recourse.

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Immigration Courts Backlog Grows as Obama Prepares Executive Action

More than 420,000 cases are pending in U.S. immigration courts, a steadily growing backlog that immigration lawyers say they hope will be eased by President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-announced executive actions, the National Law Journal reports. Obama is set to announce tonight a series of executive actions he says will help fix what he has called the country’s “broken immigration system.” The executive actions are expected to include an expansion of temporary protections from deportation and an update to the guidelines that prosecutors use in deciding whether to close or stop pursuing certain cases.

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ABA Launches Website to Aid Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

The American Bar Association Working Group on Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors has launched the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network, a comprehensive website to provide information and resources for volunteer attorneys, advocates, policymakers who shape immigration policy and journalists who report on immigration issues. The Working Group was created by ABA President William C. Hubbard in response to the immigration crisis affecting unaccompanied minors and the critical need for additional pro bono lawyers to ensure children are provided legal representation in immigration proceedings. Learn more about the initiative at the ABA website.

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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 U Visa

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 allows victims of violent crime to live and work in the country. 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. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Memphis immigration lawyer Ari Sauer with Siskind Susser at (901) 682-6455.

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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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