August 17, 2012
Feds oppose bid by immigrant US immigrants to pay for temporary work permits to be lawyer in Calif SAN FRANCISCO: Federal officials have opposed the attempt of a Mexican immigrant living in the U.S. without legal permission to become a lawyer in California. The Department of Justice issued its opinion in a brief in the case of Sergio Garcia before the California Supreme Court. Garcia has completed law school and passed the state bar exam. The final step to becoming a practicing lawyer is approval by the California Supreme Court. Garcia's application is pending, but justices are questioning whether his immigration status means they must reject him. Garcia, 35, was brought illegally to the United States by his parents as a toddler and applied for legal residency in 1995 when he was 17. He worked odd jobs and wrote self-help romance books to pay for an education without student loans. He didn't expect his immigra-
tion status to interfere with his dream of being a civil litigator until the State Bar of California started asking for the immigration status of prospective applicants before he took the bar exam.
Garcia's supporters conceded that a law firm or government agency could not legally employ him, but they say he can still work as an independent contractor The DOJ argued in its brief that federal law prohibits people who lack legal immigration status from obtaining certain state benefits, including professional licenses, unless state law explicitly grants those benefits. Garcia's attorney Jerome Fishkin
said California does have a provision in its business and professions code that allows law licenses regardless of immigration status. ``It's an escape hatch for law applications and law admission for people who are not qualified to have Social Security numbers, which essentially are undocumented and certain out of country immigrants,'' Fishkin said. He criticized the Department of Justice for failing to explain why that provision doesn't apply in the case of Garcia. Garcia's supporters conceded that a law firm or government agency could not legally employ him, but they say he can still work as an independent contractor with his own clients. The DOJ disagreed, pointing to laws that can punish clients who knowingly hire immigrants without work authorization. The examiners of the State Bar of California and state attorney general's office have supported Garcia's application. -AP
States passing fewer immigration laws WASHINGTON: State legislatures passed 20 percent fewer immigration laws in the first half of this year than at the same time last year, according to a new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lawmakers in 41 states enacted 114 bills and 92 resolutions that dealt with immigration between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year, compared with 257 such laws enacted during the same time period last year, according to the report released here. States delayed immigration legislation in part as they waited for the Supreme Court to rule on the states' authority to enforce immigration laws, said John Watkins, a Republican state senator in Virginia who co-chairs the conference's Task Force on Immigration and the States. Last June, the Supreme Court upheld a provision from Arizona's immigration law that allows po-
lice to check the immigration status of those they stop for other reasons. Yet, the justices struck down provisions that created state crimes allowing local police to arrest people for federal immigration violations.
States delayed immigration legislation in part as they waited for the Supreme Court to rule on the states' authority to enforce immigration laws, said John Watkins Watkins said that the Supreme Court ruling provided ``a yellow light, in that states can move forward in some areas, but not in others.''
States' legislative agendas also had other priorities, including finding solutions to budget gaps. Washington State representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Democrat, said it is now imperative for Congress or the next president to act on the issue. ``The can has been kicked down the road for too long, and states have suffered as a result,'' said Tomiko Santos, who co-chairs the task force with Watkins. ``Come January, action at the federal level needs to happen.'' Of all the laws enacted on immigration, 18 percent focused on law enforcement and 11 percent on identification and driver's licenses. Six states Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and West Virginia enacted laws that dealt with the E-Verify program, which requires businesses to check the legal status of their employees, according to the report. -AP
SAN DIEGO: The Obama administration says it will begin charging $465 this month for temporary work permits for many young illegal immigrants, as it laid out details of one its signature new policies on immigration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting applications Aug. 15 for the permits that are subject to renewal for two years. It will consider a limited number of fee exemptions but expects costs to be shouldered by applicants, not taxpayers. Under the program, which President Barack Obama announced in June, immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, be 30 or younger, lived in the U.S. at least five years and be in school, graduated or served in the military. They are ineligible if convicted of a felony, three misdemeanors or one ``significant'' misdemeanor. Significant misdemeanors, as defined by Homeland Security, are any offenses that result in more than 90 days in jail, and some offenses regardless of the sentence, including domestic violence, burglary and gun and drug crimes. Minor traffic offenses, including driving without a license, will not be counted at all against applicants. Driving offenses are an important point because all but three states - New Mexico, Utah and Washington - deny licenses to illegal immigrants. Applicants, who must attend an appointment and submit to background checks, might have to wait several months for a ruling. The
wait will depend on the backlog. The agency said the number of applications will determine how many employees it hires, and it did not provide an estimate for the total cost of the program. The Associated Press reported last month that Homeland Security Department internal documents estimated hundreds of employees may be hired and that the total cost could top $585 million. The internal documents estimated that the number of appli-
Significant misdemeanors, as defined by Homeland Security, are any offenses that result in more than 90 days in jail, and some offenses regardless of the sentence cants might top 1 million in the first year, or more than 3,000 a day. It will cost between $467 million and $585 million to process applications in the first two years, with revenues from fees paid by immigrants estimated at $484 million. Agency Director Alejandro Mayorkas said in a conference call with reporters that fee exemptions will be granted in limited circumstances. Eligibility criteria include homelessness, a serious disability or at least $25,000 in unpaid medical bills. -AP
US to weigh gay relationships in deportation cases SAN FRANCISCO: Homeland Security officials have reiterated amid pressure from Democratic lawmakers that a foreigner's longstanding same-sex relationship with a U.S. citizen could help stave off the threat of deportation. Binational gay couples are eligible for consideration under a federal program designed to focus resources away from low-priority deportation cases and let officials spend more time tracking down convicted criminals, said Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. However, the Obama administration will not automatically shelve deportation cases or process green card applications involving foreign citizens married to same-sex American partners.
Catron said Homeland Security will continue to comply with a 1996 law that prohibits the government from recognizing same-sex relationships, even as it takes these relationships into consideration when evaluating possible deportation. The Obama administration last year said it considers the Defense of Marriage law unconstitutional and would no longer defend it in court. The statement, which builds on comments Homeland Security officials made last summer, came three days after 84 lawmakers led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded the agency put its position in writing and disseminate it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices to help keep same-sex couples together. -AP