News

Court: Children Who Turn 21 Must Go to Back of Visa Line

A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that most immigrant children who have become adults while their parents wait to become legal permanent residents should go to the back of the line when they turn 21. In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with the Obama Administration in finding that immigration laws offer relief only to a small percentage of children who "age out" of the system. The rest – tens of thousands of children – will no longer qualify for the immigration status granted to minors, the Associated Press reports. Though a majority agreed to the ruling there was no majority opinion. Justices Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg signed one opinion while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate opinion. All five agreed to the outcome of the case but disagreed on the reasoning.

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Memphis Attorney Honored at Harvard Law Exhibit

Portraits of more than 60 prominent women -- including Memphis lawyer Lynn Susser -- were displayed at Harvard Law School for its inaugural International Women's Day Exhibition. Susser, who is managing partner at the Siskind Susser law firm and practices exclusively in immigration and nationality law, was nominated for the honor by members of the Harvard community, the Memphis Business Journal reports.

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Deportation Policy Change Being Considered

Thousands of immigrants in the United States without documentation could be shielded from deportation under a policy change being considered by the Homeland Security Department, the Associated Press reports. The change, if adopted, could limit removals of people who have repeat immigration violations but little or no criminal record. That change would fall short of the sweeping changes sought by many activists. At a news conference last week, President Obama said, “The only way to truly fix [the problem] is through congressional action. We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could."

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TIRCC Names New Interim Directors

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) has named Operations Director Lindsey Harris and Advocacy Director Stephanie Teatro as interim co-directors while it searches for a new executive director. Longtime director Stephen Fotopulos is leaving Monday after 10 years to run for a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration designed to empower immigrants and refugees to defend their rights and create an atmosphere where they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Read more about the pair. The group is accepting resumes for the executive director position. Learn more about the duties here.

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Bills Gives In-State Tuition for Kids of Undocumented Parents

Students whose parents entered the U.S. illegally will be allowed to pay in-state tuition at Tennessee colleges, under a bill now on its way to the governor. The bill passed the House 63 to 27, with little debate, according to Nashville Public Radio.

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Report: Rodriguez Decision ‘Could be Blow’ to Immigrants

The Associated Press reports that the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Friday decision in the case of Jose Rodriguez “could be a blow to immigrants who were never told that they can still be deported for a crime that has been wiped off their criminal record.” AP reporter Shelia Burke interviews immigration advocates, including the attorney who brought the case on behalf of Rodriguez, who say the decision closes an avenue for immigrants to be able to correct bad legal advice they have received in the past. The case also exposes a rift between state and federal law, they claim, since an immigrant can have a criminal record expunged by a Tennessee court but the conviction still can be used by the federal government in deportation proceedings.

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Court Rules Completed Diversion Not a ‘Conviction’

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court today ruled that a guilty plea expunged after successful completion of judicial diversion is not considered a conviction, and should not be subject to review in post-conviction proceedings. The ruling came in the case of Jose Rodriguez, a Mexican citizen, who entered a guilty plea in 2007 for patronizing a prostitute in the Nashville area. He was then placed on judicial diversion. Rodriguez successfully completed his diversion and his criminal record was expunged in January 2010. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that since Rodriguez was not “convicted,” he was not eligible for post-conviction relief, which he had sought to avoid any negative immigration consequences of his guilty plea. The Chattanoogan has more.

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Nashville Bar Foundation Awards Nearly $25K in Grants

The Nashville Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Nashville Bar Association, has awarded $24,925 in grants to four area nonprofits to support their law-related educational and charitable initiatives. The recipients are: the Family Center was given $2,000 to develop a new child abuse prevention program that will help lawyers more effectively respond to abuse cases; the Legal Aid Society was given $10,000 to expand legal assistance for immigrant and refugee communities; Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee was given $1,500 to educate the legal profession on how to deal with clients who have personality disorders, high anxiety or mental illness; and Nashville Community Education was given $1,425 to expand The People’s Law School, a program that offers a series of free legal classes to the public about important legal issues.

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Lawsuit Challenges Policy of Shackling During Delivery

Hamilton County’s policy of shackling female prisoners during labor, delivery and postpartum is being challenged in a new federal lawsuit. Attorney Chris Clem told the Chattanoogan that the suit seeks to declare the practice “as cruel and inhuman and a violation of civil rights.” A Metro Davidson County policy was also challenged in the high-profile case of Juana Villegas, an undocumented Nashville resident who was arrested and later held in shackles while giving birth.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Law Schools Team up for 3 Immigration Clinics

The Immigration Clinic at the University of Tennessee College of Law and the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law will host three immigration clinics in the eastern part of the state beginning tomorrow. The events will be held in conjunction with Centro Hispano. Dates are Jan. 25 at Centro Hispano in Knoxville from 9 a.m. to noon; Feb. 22 in Lonsdale; and March 15 in Morristown. For more information or to to get involved, contact Tennessee professor Karla McKanders, (865) 974-5710.

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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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