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Orange County Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

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Immigration for family members of citizens

California residents who are U.S. citizens and who wish to bring spouses, unmarried children under 21 or parents from a foreign country to the United States can do so under certain conditions. Those individuals can get a visa number immediately, but some other family members may be able to do so as well. Children who are married or over the age of 21 as well as siblings may also be able to get a green card.

The difference for these types of relatives is that they may have a waiting period before they can obtain a visa because the government only permits a certain number in this category to immigrate per year. This process can begin outside the United States or after an individual has arrived in the United States.

Evolving rights of undocumented workers in California

The California Supreme Court recently handed down an important ruling in favor of undocumented immigrant employees, which states that undocumented immigrants now have the legal right to sue their employers for certain illegal activities. Now under California law, if an employer reports an undocumented employee to immigration authorities as retaliation for a lawsuit or for reporting illegal treatment in the workplace, the business of that employer could lose its license, and the employer could face charges of criminal extortion.

Previously, undocumented immigrants have avoided reporting their employers for fear of deportation. As one undocumented employee stated, he was afraid to come forward about his employer's refusal to pay him because he did not want to create larger problems in the future. The employee, who worked in a local restaurant, noted that the communities in which he was working are small, and industry employers tend to know each other. The employee feared that if he stood up for his rights to fair wages, other potential employers would retaliate against him as well.

ACLU reaches settlement with immigration authorities

Government agents may now be held accountable for coercing immigrants in California to sign voluntary departure forms after settling a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a group of immigrant plaintiffs. The lawsuit accused the government of using intense pressure to compel illegal immigrants to sign the voluntary departure forms, which allowed the government to bypass the trial process to which these immigrants are entitled.

According to one estimate, approximately 70 percent of the 400,000 people being deported from the U.S. have not been seeing a judge prior to their departure. The Border Patrol has been targeting immigrants who have already been living in the U.S. for years and who have already adjusted to an American lifestyle. In 2009, Border Patrol agents deported three students who were on their way to high school. In another case, an illegal immigrant who had been residing in the U.S. since 2001 was deported after she and her 13-year-old American-born son were stopped on the street. Another man said that he had been living in the U.S. for 11 years when he was asked to sign a voluntary departure form and return to Mexico.

Requirements for immigrants seeking health care

Orange residents may be interested in some of the difficulties that immigrants and others are having with signing up for health care under the new California insurance exchange. Eligibility requires submitting proof of legal residency or citizenship, but there may be issues in delivering this message.

After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, California instituted its implementation of the program, dubbed Covered California. Since this insurance exchange was established, over 1.2 million residents of California have signed up for health care. Generally, the person's citizenship or legal status in the country is checked against a federal database and automatically cleared. When this does not work, they must submit proof of their status in order to be eligible for coverage.

180,000 California immigrants taking advantage of DACA program

California residents who are interested in immigration issues may wish to know some statistics about the implementation of the DREAM Act in California. While many have applied for deferred deportation, there are still many others who are not taking advantage of the program, according to reports.

According to a report from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, 180,000 young people in California have applied for relief from the threat of deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This number is the highest in the nation. However, the Migration Policy Institute says that this number represents only around half of those in California who would be eligible for the program.

What is dual citizenship?

Dual citizenship is basically when an individual is a citizen of two countries simultaneously. Some California residents might hold dual citizenship if they were born in the U.S. to immigrant parents or if they were born in another country to a citizen of that country and a U.S. citizen. Someone who has become a naturalized U.S. citizen can also seek to regain citizenship in his or her country of origin, which will cause the individual to have dual citizenship.

Someone with dual citizenship does have several advantages over someone who is a citizen of a single country, such as the ability to become a resident of either country without excessive legal complications. However, there can be drawbacks as well; someone with dual citizenship might have to pay taxes to two different countries, regardless of where the individual lives. Each country might also have residency requirements.

Non-profits scramble to help reunite families

California residents might be interested in learning about non-profit organizations that are trying to reunite migrant children with their parents. The current situation of large numbers of children from Guatemala, Venezuela and Honduras arriving at the border because they are fleeing poverty and gang violence in their countries has been much in the news lately.

However, some of the children are making the long and dangerous trek simply because their parents have been living in the United States for years, and they miss them and want to be with them. That was the case with a 16-year-old girl who lived with her aging grandparents in Guatemala after her parents left for the U.S. before she turned 2. After the girl arrived, a Miami-based non-profit helped her parents to fill out the 16 pages of paperwork required by the federal government. The teen is now with her farm worker parents and her three younger siblings who were born in the U.S.

Immigrant detained for refusing to comply with health officials

On July 27, a 25-year-old transient worker in California was taken into police custody after he allegedly failed to cooperate with health workers. According to sources, the Mexican native was diagnosed with tuberculosis in March after he went to a hospital in San Joaquin for treatment of a severe cough. Without proper treatment, the illness is known to have fatal consequences to those who contract it.

Reports indicate that the man was instructed by hospital staff to reside in a hotel in Stockton where a health official would later provide him with medication. However, the man allegedly left the hotel room, and once located, authorities charged him with a misdemeanor for not complying with a tuberculosis order. Although a spokesperson with the San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney's Office claimed that this move was made in the public interest, it is unclear how it might affect the transient man's work eligibility.

Immigration reform interlaced with U.S. job market

The immigration issue, as many California residents know, is hotly debated. From the surge in children crossing the border from Central America to the immigration bills being debated in Congress, it is an area that is vastly complex. At the heart of the issue is the use of immigrants to fill both high-tech and low-wage jobs in this country.

Domestic companies are filling low-wage jobs in the U.S. with workers from other countries. Low-paying jobs such as health care aides and domestics use foreign workers to do work American workers generally do not want to do. The W-visas would allow immigrants to work in this country when a high number of vacancies in a job sector arise. Those workers could apply for permanent residency.

Immigration officials ignore Trust Act violation

Reliance upon inaccurate information in a computer database appears to be the cause of a violation by Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies of California's Trust Act. Under the law that went into effect in January, law enforcement agencies in the state cannot hold a person in custody on just a detainer request from U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement except under specific circumstances enumerated in the statute.

According to the sheriff's department, Santa Ana police detained a 25-year-old man on an outstanding warrant and held in the local jail. Deputies from the sheriff's department reviewed the man's criminal record and immigration status. The man's record apparently showed a prior conviction for a crime for which the Trust Act authorized holding him for deportation. Although the conviction information subsequently proved to be incorrect, the man had already been turned over to immigration officials to be held under threat of deportation.