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October 2012 Archives

Undocumented Immigrants

Approved by a City Council Committee to Face Full Council SoonWhen it comes to dealing with undocumented immigrants in our country, it has been obvious that certain states take initiative in acting in a fair and just way while others do not. California has the largest population in the country and twenty-seven percent of the population is accounted for by immigrants. This statistic is discounting the number of undocumented individuals. Being such a hub for immigrants, it only makes sense then, that the most populated Californian city would work towards giving immigrants, documented or not, opportunities that are just.Proposal to Issue IDs to Undocumented Immigrants in Los AngelesEarlier this year, Los Angeles stopped seizing the cars of those who were driving without a license. Months later, the police department announced that it would no longer report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities for low-level offenses, an act that previously resulted in the eventual deportation of these individuals.Proposal to Issue IDs to Undocumented Immigrants in Los AngelesLast week, a City Council committee unanimously approved a proposal to develop a city-wide identification card system. This proposal, if approved now by the full Council, would allow undocumented individuals to receive ID cards which would be more than beneficial in a number of ways.

Undocumented Immigrants Issues

The ID cards would, in addition to serving the obvious purpose of identification, would double as prepaid debit cards. Currently, as undocumented immigrants are unable to open bank accounts, they are forced into carrying large sums of money on their person. Many immigrants and immigrant rights advocates have spoken out that this places them in unnecessarily dangerous situations, making undocumented immigrants susceptible to robberies, which are, at times, quite violent.This proposal, like all other efforts to increase immigrant rights, is faced with heavy opposition from conservatives. In this case, Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform – a group that is a proponent of stricter immigration laws – has openly opposed this proposal for city IDs for undocumented immigrants claiming, "this city has bent over backwards to accommodate people who are in this country illegally… if Los Angeles is going to be issuing government IDs, how do they know these people’s true identities"?They could be helping people establish a false identity. In tow with this opposition, others have argued that issuing IDs is a matter that must be resolved by the federal government. However, most proponents disagree with both arguments and are still propone issuing IDs to undocumented individuals. Los Angeles is not the first city to offer such a proposal. In 2007, New Haven became the first city to do so. Thereafter, many cities, including Oakland and San Francisco followed in New Havens’ footsteps. These cities have not experienced any of the negative effects as predicted by the opposition.Will Los Angeles be able to achieve a position on the list of immigrant-friendly cities by allowing undocumented immigrants to hold IDs? Only the votes can tell.

Immigration Marriage

Obama Administration moves one step closer to greater freedom for immigrant partners in Same Sex relationship. There are immigrants, there are Same Sex couples, and then there are same sex couples in which one partner is an immigrant. While all of these groups suffer in terms of liberties, it not surprising that the latter group sees the least amount of liberties.Same Sex PartnersUntil recently, for example, in a deportation case of an immigrant who is in a Same Sex relationship, his or her partner would not be considered a family member. Last Friday, however, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that the Obama Administration has directed ICE to include long-term Same Sex Couples in its interpretation of “family member.”

Same Sex Couples Interpretation

While Pelosi appreciates Janet Napolitano’s directive to recognize Same Sex couples, she believes that more must be done for immigrant Same Sex couples, and all Same Sex couples in general. Under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government is restricted from extending federal benefits to married Same Sex couples. This barring of federal benefits, such as Social Security, is not only detrimental to couples, but it has been declared unconstitutional by Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama.Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not it will review certain cases that question the constitutionality of DOMA. In the meanwhile, there are hundreds of Same Sex couples that are suffering as a result of DOMA and scores of Same Sex couples with an immigrant partner that are undergoing additional hardships.Same Sex CouplesOne such case is that of the married couple Brian Willingham and Alfonso Garcia; they are continuously struggling to be considered one another’s family member with immigration authorities. After a traffic stop, Garcia, who entered the country at the age of 14 from Mexico, was given a deportation order. Until the Obama administration issued the directive to consider long-term, Same Sex couples family members, Garcia and Willingham struggled to prove their relation.

Same Sex Couples Directive

This directive is a just another step forward as it will serve as written guidance for immigration officials. It will work to help those families who are on the verge of being torn apart by deportation. This federal recognition of Same Sex couples as family members seems to place new hope for not only for immigration, but also for the LGBTQ community. We hope, now, that this step is one of many to help immigrant partners in Same Sex relationships. If you would like to speak with one of our experiences Attorneys regarding a same sex relationship matter, call us 212-944-9071 or contact us to schedule a consultation.

Undocumented Immigrants

College students who are U.S. citizens have over the past year been denied financial aid by several States seeking to reduce their educational expenses. These U.S. citizen students’ parents are undocumented. Recently Federal Courts in New Jersey and Florida have stayed these States from this practice because the U.S. Constitution bars unequal application of the laws. Although States like Florida and New Jersey may legally charge higher tuition for out of state residents more than they charge for state residents at public colleges and universities, still U.S. citizen students who are in state residents cannot be charged the higher rates because their parents are undocumented.

Student Aid Laws

student aid immigrantsOne U.S. born student recently who had graduated high school in Florida and lived there all his life, fled to enter Florida International University at the lower tuition rate but he was not admitted because he could not prove his parents were legal residents. The State denied him State residence because his parents were not legal residents of the State. He could not attend the public university because of the higher tuition. A Federal Judge in Miami, Florida found the State regulations unconstitutional. This law created a lower class U.S. citizenship category.This policy the Judge stated "does not advance any legitimate state interest" while it hindered Florida’s goal of furthering educational opportunities for its own residents. These U.S. born children are citizens. Their family’s status is not relevant. They do not conform to the Constitutional mandate of the equal protection of the laws.

Student Aid Policy

student aid immigrantsA New Jersey State Appeals Court Judge in August, 2012 held that the State of New Jersey may not deny a U.S. citizen and State resident the rights and privileges of tuition benefits because of who her parents are. The Judge declared this is "decidedly un-American". Similarly in California in the past, the State put an end to policies that denied residency to American students because their parents were in the country illegally.

Immigration Laws For Students

Through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the federal government is promising to grant certain undocumented individuals the benefit of residing in the United States without the fear of deportation and authorizing them to work. It has been clarified time and time again, however, that DACA-eligible individuals will not be granted any benefits aside from these. A crucial question to many has surfaced in light of this recent initiative: what of college education? There is no federal or state law that prohibits undocumented individuals to U.S. colleges, whether public or private. However, undocumented applicants to colleges and universities face higher tuition, often paying out-of-state tuition or foreign-student tuition. While out-of-state and foreign students who have documentation have the benefit of applying for and receiving financial aid, those who do not have documentation are unable to partake in this advantage. This places higher education financially out of reach for many otherwise bright and talented individuals.

Deferred Action Status

Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsWhat Ricardo Sanchez, chairman of Latino/a Educational Achievement Project, advocates increased efforts to offer financial aids to undocumented college students. In 2009, Sanchez attempted a similar measure in Washington State, however, it was unsuccessful as it did not make it past committees. Now, Sanchez continues advocating for state financial aid to be opened to undocumented college students, arguing that the students and their families contribute their share to the state’s economy by paying taxes. Additionally, he argues, many potential beneficiaries of this new measure are children of workers in the agricultural sector, which is one of the state’s primary economic sectors.

Deferred Action Immigration

While this quells certain concerns regarding financial burdens on the state, the core concern should be the value this measure would add to not only the state, but the country as a whole. Just in the state of Washington, analysts have assumed that a financial aid policy offered to undocumented individuals would increase the number of statewide higher education students by 1,000 in any given year. With this increase in higher-skilled individuals, there can only be positive results as the pool of qualified individuals would grow in size. Thusly, the number of higher-skilled workers available for employment would increase, which can only be beneficent to our economy.Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsOffering financial aid to undocumented higher education students obviously requires an in-depth cost-benefit analysis. However, when it comes to education, does it not seem commonsensical to suggest that the more individuals benefitting from higher education, the better?
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