Monthly Archives: July 2016

Executive Branch Asks Supreme Court to Rehear US Versus Texas

On Monday, July 18, Attorneys for the Department of Justice filed a petition with the Supreme Court requesting that the Court re-hear U.S. v. Texas once a ninth justice has been appointed to the court.

Because of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the justices deadlocked 4-4 in their opinion on the case last month. As a result, the 5th circuit court’s preliminary injunction restraining the executive branch from proceeding with DAPA and the expansion of DACA was left standing.

The Supreme Court deadlocked in four cases this last term, including this immigration case. Petitions for rehearing were filed by the losing side in two of those cases – Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (which challenged fees charged to public employees who do not join the union that represents them) and Hawkins v. Community Bank (which interpreted a federal law banning discrimination in credit transactions) of Raymore. The Court denied both requests for rehearing before leaving for their summer recess.

The DOJ attorneys claimed in their petition that it is more important for U.S. v. Texas to be re-heard before a full court than either the Friedrichs or the Hawkins case, because the question of the validity of Obama’s guidance on immigration is “unlikely to arise in any future case.”

“Ordinarily, it is exceedingly rare for this Court to grant rehearing,” The DOJ attorneys stated in their petition. “But when this Court has conducted plenary review and then affirmed by vote of an equally divided court because of a vacancy rather than a disqualification, the Court has not infrequently granted rehearing before a full Bench.”

The petition is right; the Court really has granted rehearing before a full Bench after a deadlock due to a vacancy before several times. After the death of Justice Benjamin Cardozo, the Supreme Court granted rehearing of the 1938 case of US v. One 1936 Model Ford V-8 De Luxe Coach. Two cases were granted re-hearing after Justice Robert Jackson’s death caused a vacancy in 1954.  In other vacancy cases, four cases were granted re-hearing in 1941 due to Justice Clark McReynolds’ retirement, two cases were granted re-hearing in 1945 after Justice Robert Jackson took a leave of absence, and one case was granted re-hearing due to a justice’s absence due to illness in 1895.

However, all the cases cited in the petition took place over 60 years ago. This may be because it’s much more common these days for justices to retire before their deaths. As the Washington Post noted back in February, Justice Scalia was only the third Supreme Court Justice to die while “on the bench” in the last 63 years. Chief Justice William Rehnquist died on the bench in 2005, but prior to that, the last justice to die while on the bench was Chief Justice Fred Vinson, who died in 1953. As a result, the executive and legislative branches of the federal government usually anticipate a Supreme Court vacancy before it happens and have time to decide what to do about it. Justice Scalia’s death took everyone by surprise.

“Unless the Court resolves this court in a precedential manner, a matter of ‘great national importance’ involving an ‘unprecedented and momentous’ injunction barring implementation of the Guidance will have been effectively resolved for the country as a whole by a court of appeals that has divided twice, with two judges voting for petitioners and two for respondent States. As this Court recognized in granting certiorari, this Court instead should be the final arbiter of these matters through a definitive ruling.”

All eight Justices will discuss the government’s filing and determine what to do about it. The Court could deny the request outright, as was done in the previous two deadlocked cases requesting re-hearing this term, or the Court could ask Texas and the other states who joined the challenge to the guidance to weigh in on the re-hearing petition. However, the Court’s previous denial of the other two petitions for re-hearing this term on a deadlocked case strongly forecast that this petition is unlikely to succeed. If the Senate continues to block hearings of the President’s Supreme Court nominee, there may be many, many months to go before a ninth Justice joins the Court.

To find out how any recent controversies in immigration law may affect you and your immigration process, contact a trusted immigration lawyer at Maximilian Law Inc.

Senate Fails to Advance Controversial Changes to Immigration Law

The Republican controlled United States Senate recently was unable to garner the votes necessary to advance two bills altering immigration law and begin debate on the issues.

One of the bills at issue—S.3100, known as the “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act”—would have blocked federal housing and community development money (from the Community Development Block Grant Program and certain Economic Development Assistance Programs) from going to any so-called “sanctuary cities.” “Sanctuary city” generally refers to any municipality that prevent police from assisting immigration officials in attempting to deport immigrants in the nation illegally.  The bill received a vote of 53-44 against it proceeding forward; 60 votes were required to begin debate on the issue.

Similar bills were proposed in the House and the Senate in 2015. The House version passed; the Senate version did not. At the time, President Barack Obama threatened to veto either version if Congressed passed them up to his desk.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), who sponsored the bill, was unhappy with the bill’s failure. “These leaders understand this issue is not about immigration,” Toomey said in a weekly Republican address on C-Span. “It is about public safety. The vast majority of immigrants in America would never commit any such crime — but any very large group of people is going to include some terrible people within it. And with about 11 million illegal immigrants in our country, there will be some who are violent criminals.”

The other Bill—S.2193, proposing “Kate’s Law”—would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act and established a 5-year mandatory minimum prison term for an immigrant who reenters the country after being removed following a conviction for an aggravated felony or two or more prior convictions for illegal reentry.  Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sponsored the law.

The bill was inspired by 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot in July 2015 on a pier in San Francisco by a Mexican immigrant in the country illegally. The shooter had previously been convicted of several felonies and had been deported several times. That tragedy also fueled the debate around sanctuary cities, as the shooter was released by the sheriff’s department in San Francisco despite a request by the U.S. Justice Department that he be held for deportation.

That bill failed 55-42, along party lines.

Democratic senators were strongly opposed to the two bills. “Senator Toomey’s legislation would simply create more problems. It wouldn’t solve anything,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “[Senator Cruz’s bill] would enact unnecessary mandatory minimum sentences. It would cost billions, billions of new dollars, increase the prison population and siphon funding from state and local law enforcement. Worst of all, this sort of partisan piecemeal approach undermines bipartisan efforts to enact badly needed reforms on our criminal justice system”

Immigration Rights activists also argue that if local authorities are required to cooperate with immigration officials, immigrants will trust police less.

The Executive Branch has previously spoken out on other versions of the sanctuary cities defunding bill, stating that the bill was flawed. The White House statement of policy on the bill said, in part: “[T]he bill would condition Federal money on State and local governments allowing their law enforcement officials to gather citizenship and immigration status information from any person at any time for any reason. The Administration believes that such blanket authority would threaten the civil rights of all Americans, lead to mistrust between communities and State and local law enforcement agencies, and impede efforts to safely, fairly, and effectively enforce the Nation’s immigration laws.”

To find out how any recent controversies or changes in immigration law may affect you and your immigration process, contact a trusted immigration lawyer at Maximilian Law Inc.

Avoid Immigration Scammers; Use Experienced Immigration Lawyers Instead

Earlier this year, the federal government charged a man in Sacramento, California with conspiracy and fraud for his role in running an immigration scam which garnered high fees from immigrants across at least seven states hopeful for U.S. citizenships. This man operated a nonprofit which promoted adult adoptions as a pathway to citizenship status, taking in at least $500,000 from 500 immigrants across the country.

Though authorities called this man’s actions “unusually creative,” these scams are unfortunately common. Unscrupulous people take advantage of vulnerable undocumented immigrants who are often unwilling to report the fraud to the police for fear of deportation.  However, many states now allow immigrants to report scams anonymously.

Is your attorney really an attorney?

Check that the person representing you is really an attorney. The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service warns on its website that sometimes notary publics in the U.S. misrepresent themselves as attorneys. This often occurs because in many Spanish-speaking countries, “notaries” are attorneys with special legal credentials. In contrast, a “notario publico” in the United States performs duties such as witnessing the signing of documents. A notary has no ability to provide you with legal advice or services related to immigration without also possessing a law license.

Fortunately, you can check whether your “attorney” is legitimate online fairly easily. Most state bar associations have search functions on their websites so you can check that your attorney is currently licensed and in good standing.  For example, the State Bar of California’s attorney search is right here: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/membersearch/quicksearch. You can easily check that Maximilian Law’s own Cedric M. Shen is a lawyer in good standing, with an active law license. Such databases also often give information about any past disciplinary action against that attorney.

Does the website ask you to pay money in order to receive immigration forms?

All USCIS forms are available to download online, by mail, or by phone (at 1-800-870-3676). If any website says that it is affiliated with USCIS but attempts to charge you for these forms, they are attempting to scam you. Ensure that you know where your information is coming from before you act or give any money to anyone.

Other scammers attempt to trick people into paying their immigration fees via phone. All official immigration fees will go through any domestic field office of the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS.gov, or the U.S. mail.

Other Tips

USCIS suggests that immigrations read all form instructions thoroughly, ensuring that you fully understand it and that it’s filled out truthfully and accurately before you sign it. Never sign blank forms or any forms that you cannot read or do not understand. Any time you make a payment to anyone who helps you with your immigration case, make sure you get a receipt.

Immigration scams can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission; you can find a list of the applicable agencies and protective state laws online at https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/report-immigration-scams. USCIS also offers a lot of information on how to avoid immigration scams online at https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams.

If you are looking for immigration advice from a trustworthy, experienced source, the immigration law firm of Maximilian Law Inc. can help.