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Boston Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Is claiming refugee status viable?

Many residents of Massachusetts may have heard about the ongoing crisis at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Media sources report that many migrants are attempting to enter the U.S. to escape violence in their home countries. However, claiming refugee status may be a more complicated matter than some people realize.

In order for a person to receive refugee status and apply for asylum in the U.S., they must be able to show that they were forced to flee their home country for some reason, and in particular, that they are unable to return for fear of death or injury. That said, children arriving at the border are treated differently than adults. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. enacted the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act, which guarantees that children who arrive in the U.S. will not be deported without first being granted an immigration hearing.

Citizenship ceremonies conducted on July 4

During the first week of July, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service granted citizenship to 9,000 people in Massachusetts and across the country. Some of these individuals completed the process of naturalization on Independence Day, a perfect tribute to recognize their new citizenship.

In Mt. Vernon, Virginia, 102 people were naturalized on July 4. The site was at George Washington's estate. Other historic places were used for their own naturalization ceremonies, including Mt. Rushmore, Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Midway and the White House. In Mt. Vernon, immigrants from Afghanistan, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Sierra Leon, Turkey, Vietnam and the United Kingdom were some of the individuals receiving citizenship status. The ceremony lasted 45 minutes.

Massachussetts immigrant driver's license bill to be studied

A controversial piece of legislation has been designated for study. The decision was made by a panel of lawmakers on June 23, drawing reaction from area advocates for immigrants. The bill in question would permit immigrants who are not documented to obtain driver's licenses in the state. Votes by the Transportation Committee were varied, with nine of the individuals opting to send it to study. Only three members desired that the legislation emerge from committee, and four voted against it.

Those supporting this legislation indicate that it would improve safety for drivers at large by allowing those immigrants whose work requires driving to be trained and insured. The move would also reportedly assist first responders needing to identify people during emergencies. However, those opposing the bill are concerned that there would be an increase in fraud.

Massachusetts mayor urges freeze on refugee resettlement

Springfield's mayor is concerned about the strain on city resources created by immigrant families resettling in the community. He indicates that insufficient assistance from resettlement agencies is stressing the school system as well. His concerns were expressed in a letter to the state's governor, senators and a state representative. The mayor notes that he is not trying to be cold but that he expects agencies to be accountable for their actions.

The State Department has received only a limited number of similar requests in the past, according to a department representative. He says that refugees are only placed in communities equipped to address their needs. He also indicates that the refugee work in Springfield is primarily focused on families being reunited and that the government cannot prevent individuals who have been placed in one location from resettling to reunite with family members.

Illegal immigrants being sent to Massachusetts by plane

According to reports, several planeloads of illegal immigrants have been shipped to Massachusetts from other parts of America in June of 2014. Although Governor Duval Patrick claims to know nothing about it, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have confirmed that six chartered flights were sent to Boston.

This follows a report from May of 2014 that 36,000 illegal immigrants with criminal histories were released in various areas of the country. According to ICE, moving detainees from southern borders to other parts of the country is a routine event. According to one person from the Center for Immigration Studies, many of those who have come to the United States only to be detained have cited recent policies that have allowed some to stay once they have crossed the border, and this may make it appealing to try and enter the country. She further went on to say that recent policies are distracting the Border Patrol from doing their job deporting illegal immigrants with a criminal history.

Immigrants from Central America overcrowd border facilities

Boston residents concerned about immigration issues may take interest in the recent crisis that continues in Texas as Central Americans, mostly women and children, cross the Rio Grande in hope of finding refuge in the U.S. Recently, overcrowding at the Border Patrol's facilities has forced officials to use warehouses and military bases as detention centers.

Reports say that the Customs and Border Protection detained approximately 47,000 minors in the last eight months. The majority of the minors are unaccompanied, and officials say that children less than 10 years old have attempted to cross the border. Furthermore, the current influx of immigrants is occurring in full sight since many believe that women and children will not face deportation.

Congress, activist leaders speak about immigration reform

Massachusetts readers with an interest in immigration reform may be interested in a recent hearing in Congress on the issue. On May 29, activist leaders, families, immigrant mothers, DREAMers and members of Congress met in Washington, D.C., to discuss immigration issues and their impact on families. The purpose was to encourage legislators to consider how current immigration policies affect children and women. According to the campaign director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, 75 percent of all immigrants to the United States are women and children.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 emphasized family-based admissions. The policy encouraged more women to emigrate to the U.S. A nonpartisan think tank reported that in 2008, Mexico was the largest country of origin for women immigrating to the U.S. According to the Center for American Progress, 55 percent of those obtaining green cards and 51.1 percent of foreign people living in the U.S. in 2011 were women.

H-1B visas in the U.S.

In 2013, Massachusetts was one of the top 10 states in which foreigners with H-1B visas were residing. California was number one on the list, which was most likely due to the fact that most foreigners coming to the U.S. with H-1B visas go to work in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics field, in areas such as Silicon Valley. The H-1B visas are designed to be non-immigrant visas for foreigners working in specialty occupations, and they are intended to bring in foreigners for fields in which there is a shortage of American workers.

Some experts say that the STEM field has a shortage of Americans, which may have led to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approval of more than 150,000 H-1B visas in 2013. To obtain an H-1B visa, a foreigner needs to hold a higher education degree or its equivalent. Most people who come to the U.S. with an H-1B visa work in the information technology industry on a short-term basis.

Education rights for children of immigrants reaffirmed

School districts in Massachusetts and around the country were recently reminded of their responsibility for addressing the educational needs of all children. Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed the inclusion of the children of undocumented immigrants in this responsibility, and guidelines have been issued to ensure federal compliance. The issue affects numerous children as the Department of Homeland Security indicates that at least 1.1 million undocumented children live in the United States.

A 1982 Supreme Court decision addressed the right of undocumented young people to obtain a public education, but in some school districts, requests have been made of parents for driver's licenses or Social Security numbers before children may be registered. Undocumented parents generally lack these forms of identification and these types of requirements are illegal. Asking parents who lack citizenship to provide this information could result in children not being enrolled. Schools may ask for documents such as bills or lease agreements to ensure that students meet requirements for residency. School records or affidavits may be requested to verify students' ages.

Government denies a permanent resident U.S. citizenship

Immigrants living in Massachusetts may be interested in one man's struggle for naturalization after living in the U.S. for nearly 50 years. The man's attorney argues that his service to the country entitles him to citizenship.

The man, now 58, came to America from Cuba in 1965 at the age of nine. Legislation the following year allowed him and other Cuban immigrants to apply for permanent residency after staying in the U.S. for a year. Additionally, he would have been eligible for naturalization five years after his arrival. The man joined the Army during the Vietnam War, during which he believed that he was put through a naturalization procedure before an immigration judge. However, in 2013 he applied for a passport. During the application process it was discovered that he never had citizenship. His subsequent application for naturalization was denied in November 2013.

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