News

Free Immigration Seminar Offered in Chattanooga

The Olsen Law Firm and the New Orleans Field Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will hold a free seminar Jan. 21 from noon to 1 p.m. on the issues of immigration enforcement and removal. Topics to be addressed include special provisions for victims of domestic violence and young people who came to the United States as children. The program will feature immigration attorney Terry Olsen and John Bobo, a supervisory detention and deportation officer in Chattanooga. For more information or to RSVP please contact Olson by Jan. 17 at tolsen@tlolaw.com or (423) 648-9390.

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CA Court Grants Law License to Illegal Resident

The California Supreme Court granted a law license yesterday to a man who has lived in the United States illegally for two decades, WRCB reports. The unanimous decision will allow Sergio Garcia, who attended law school and passed the state bar exam while working in a grocery store and on area farms, to begin practicing law immediately. According to the Associated Press, advocates hope the ruling will open the door to millions of immigrants seeking to enter other professions such as medicine, accounting and teaching.

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Rep. Black Fights ICE’s Public Advocate Program

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, has been locked in a nearly two-year battle with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the agency’s decision to hire a public advocate who would work with immigration groups and individual immigrants, including those charged with entering the country without documentation. Black describes the office as an “illegal alien lobbyist” and accuses President Barack Obama of ignoring a provision passed by Congress to defund the position. She continues to call on the administration to eliminate the program. An ICE spokeswoman did not respond to requests to discuss the matter, according to the Tennessean.

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Court Clarifies Responsibility for Immigration Notifications

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of a man who said he was not aware that his guilty plea would result in his deportation or that it would adversely affect his future eligibility to return legally to the United States. The court made the ruling after finding that the defendant’s lawyer had provided the appropriate notification even though the trial court did not discuss the consequences or inquire whether the attorney had done so. However, the court declined to decide in general whether the federal or state constitution requires courts to advise a person pleading guilty of the immigration consequences of the plea. In this particular case, the court said the lack of a court notice was “harmless” because the attorney had already provided the information.

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Metro Considers Settlement in Shackled Mom Case

Five years after Juana Villegas went into labor while shackled to a hospital bed by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, Metro Nashville is looking to pay her $100,000 in damages and $390,000 to her attorneys to end an ongoing lawsuit, The Tennessean reports. Following the incident, which garnered national attention, a federal judge ruled in Villegas’ favor and ordered Metro to pay her $200,000. A jury later awarded her attorneys $1.2 million in fees. But the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned both awards and ordered a retrial. The Metro Council was set to vote today to approve the settlement and end the case.

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65 Immigrants Naturalized at 'Become a Citizen Now'

More than 60 immigrants were assisted by 12 lawyers in filing naturalization petitions Saturday during “Become a Citizen Now” workshops sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Legal Aid Society and the mayor’s New Americans Advisory Council. Forty volunteers — including a dozen law students from Vanderbilt University Law School — assisted applicants in completing forms, with experienced attorneys responsible for the screening of applicants for their eligibility for naturalization and for final review of the completed forms. Mayor Karl Dean attended the event and spoke to participants filing for citizenship, saying: “You make our city a better place, a richer place. The city is proud of you.”

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Documentary Film Series Launches with Immigrant Stories

Lipscomb University’s HumanDocs film series is kicking off it’s new season Wednesday with “I Learn America,” a documentary that follows five students at a high school that serves newly arrived immigrants from more than 50 nations. Co-sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Nashville Film Festival and Nashville Public Television, the free screening will be at 7 p.m. with a panel discussion to follow at Shamblin Theater on Lipscomb’s campus.

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Magazine Predicts 12 ‘Hottest’ Practice Areas

The September issue of The National Jurist predicts the 12 "hottest" practice areas for the next decade. Those deemed to be “super hot” were health care, administrative, intellectual property and family law. Food and drug law, tax litigation, privacy law and compliance law were ranked as “hot.” And employment, energy, manufacturing and immigration law were judged “somewhat hot.”

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Event Helps Immigrants Begin Citizenship Process

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) hosted a workshop this past Saturday in Chattanooga to educate immigrants about how to begin the process of obtaining American citizenship. During the event, volunteer attorneys assisted attendees in determining their eligibility for citizenship while others helped fill out necessary forms. TBA Immigration Section Chair Terry Olsen with the Olsen Law Firm provided training to help volunteers spot legal issues in the application process. TIRCC is a statewide organization dedicated to empowering immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee by helping them defend their rights and be recognized as positive contributors to the state.

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Sheriff Threatens to 'Stack Violators Like Cordwood' After ICE Decision

Immigrant-advocacy groups in Knox County are not happy with their sheriff, Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, after he responded to the news that the 287(g) immigration enforcement program has been rejected by federal officials. The government "used sequestration as a smokescreen to shirk its responsibilities for providing safety and security to its citizens," he wrote on his website. " I will continue to enforce these federal immigration violations with or without the help of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If need be, I will stack these violators like cordwood in the Knox County Jail until the appropriate federal agency responds."  Rev. John Gill, representing more than 20 congregations and the Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee says Jones takes a "very human issue and moral issue … and turns it into what appears to be a political issue for him." WBIR has the story

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Knox Application for ICE Program Denied

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office application to participate in a controversial immigration enforcement program has been rejected by federal officials, Knoxnews reports. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which runs the program, attributes its decision to budgetary constraints. “Due to resource concerns, including the impacts of sequestration, ICE is limiting 287(g) participation to those law enforcement agencies with existing [programs].” The 287(g) program authorizes and trains local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

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Free Domestic Violence Training for Lawyers, Advocates

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is offering a statewide legal advocacy training session Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tennessee Health Management in Antioch. Robin Kimbrough, legal counsel for the group, will conduct the training for lawyers and advocates. Topics will include the basics of civil and criminal law in cases of domestic and sexual violence, the role of advocates and attorneys, tips on avoiding the unauthorized practice of law, and benefits for immigrant victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and trafficking. The training is free but reservations are requested. Learn more or register here.

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New York Lawyer Takes Office as ABA President

Accepting the presidential gavel today at the ABA Annual Meeting, New York lawyer James Silkenat laid out a series of initiatives he intends to focus on during his year in office. These include a renewed effort to improve access to justice, creating employment opportunities for new lawyers and addressing the public policy issues of gun violence, immigration and election law reform. The ABA Journal reports.

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Florida Bar Supports Admission for Immigrant Lawyer

Florida Bar leaders have voted to support a petition seeking to amend state bar rules to allow the admission of undocumented immigrants. The effort was organized by Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, former president of the ABA and Florida State University, who is representing bar applicant Jose Godinez-Samperio. A petition in support of admission was signed by 106 members of the state bar, including a former state governor, top judges, two former ABA presidents and five former bar presidents. Godinez-Samperio, who was brought to this country as a child, has passed the state bar exam and is awaiting a ruling on the issue by the state supreme court. The ABA Journal has more on the story.

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Home School Parents to Petition High Court

A couple who fled Germany to home school their children but have been denied U.S. asylum, say they are preparing to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. They also told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that they are working with Congress to try to change the law. The Romeikes moved to East Tennessee in 2008 after an escalating fight with German officials. The family initially was granted asylum by a Memphis immigration judge, but that ruling was overturned. In May, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the family did not meet the criteria for asylum, finding that Germany does not single out religious minorities for persecution. The family’s lawyer, however, disagrees saying Germany uses the mandatory schooling law to limit the growth of religious minorities.

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GOP Lawmakers Split on Immigration Bill

Tennessee GOP House members remain critical of the immigration reform bill that their fellow Tennessee Republicans, senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, helped pass in the Senate. The House Republican Conference meets today to decide what, if any, route to take on the issue. Congressional Democrats insisted Tuesday they will not agree to any immigration bill that lacks a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. The Tennessean has more.

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Knox County to Participate in Deportation Program

Less than a year after the Davidson County Sheriff’s office halted its participation in a controversial program that gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will participate in the program. At a meeting last week, the county sheriff heard from critics who argue the program leads to racial profiling, separation of families and distrust of law enforcement. He was not swayed, Knoxnews reports. After initially applying to the program in 2010, Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones said he expects to finalize a memorandum of understanding with the federal government within the next few weeks.

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State Officials: Arizona Ruling Does Not Impact State

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning Arizona's law requiring proof of citizenship for people registering to vote does not impact Tennessee’s election laws, WSMV reports. In a news release last week, Hargett said that Tennessee doesn't require that kind of proof when registering to vote, instead requiring the voter to swear that he or she is a citizen.

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Court Grants 4 Case Reviews

The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted review in two criminal cases and two civil matters, Raybin-Perky Hot List reports. The criminal case issues include an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a death penalty case regarding mental health proof; and whether expunged convictions may still be challenged in post-conviction proceedings where there are lingering immigration consequences. On the civil front, the court will determine whether a trial court may require a prevailing party to draft a summary judgment order without offering its own legal reasoning, and whether an inmate in state custody, but in a privately operated facility, may only bring a lawsuit in the county in which the facility is located as opposed to the corporation headquarters in Nashville. 

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State Election Officials to Review Arizona Ruling

Tennessee election officials say they plan to review yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that Arizona’s voter identification requirement is inconsistent with federal law, the Associated Press reports. Two years ago, Tennessee enacted legislation that allows election officials to purge noncitizen residents from election rolls. Under the law, anyone listed as a noncitizen has 30 days to present proof of citizenship or be removed from the rolls. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State says election officials will review the ruling to see if it affects Tennessee law. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Obama, Business Leaders Support Immigration Reform

Immigration legislation making its way through the U.S. Senate gained the support of Tennessee business leaders last week. The Tennessean reports that representatives from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of Tennessee, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others announced support for the plan, which also was endorsed by President Obama last week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes to have a vote on the bill by July 4.

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Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Voter I.D. Law

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down Arizona's requirement that would-be voters submit proof of citizenship, the ABA Journal reports. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the law conflicted with the federal "motor voter" law, which allows individuals to register to vote without supplying proof of citizenship. The court also was unconvinced that the federal voter registration form needs to be changed to include additional information, which the state said it needed to determine a voter’s eligibility. But Scalia said the state could petition the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the form and then appeal any decision not to make changes.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. dissented from the decision arguing that it interprets “an ambiguous federal statute in a way that brushes aside the constitutional authority of the states" since "under the Constitution, the states, not Congress, have the authority to establish the qualifications of voters in elections for members of Congress." Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU applauded the ruling saying it invalidated a burdensome requirement that restricted citizens' ability to register to vote." Writing at SCOTUSblog, however, one law professor warned the ruling should not be read too broadly as the case “involved a question of statutory construction, not a constitutional challenge."

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Tenn. Lawmakers Looking at Immigration Bill

Tennessee lawmakers are voicing varied opinions on Senate Bill 744 during debate on comprehensive immigration reform, the Tennessean reports. U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander have questioned the border-security provisions, while Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, says the bill looks “promising.” Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, and Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, say they are skeptical of the Senate bill.

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Educators Push for Immigration Reform

Twenty-one leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities have sent letters to U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, urging their support for a bipartisan plan that would ensure foreign-born students educated in the U.S. have a clear path to work in this country after graduation. The educators say current immigration policy threatens “America’s pre-eminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” because of its inability to retain skilled foreign-born graduates. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

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Attorney’s Police Aspirations Evolved into Legal Career

Memphis native Shayla Purifoy had planned to become a police officer before deciding that the legal profession was the right fit for her. She began working on domestic violence cases through a general civil litigation clinic after taking a social welfare and policy course at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Now with Memphis Area Legal Services, Purifoy works with immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. “I just enjoy helping people,” she told the Memphis Daily News.

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