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Proposed Law to Make Employer Verification of an Employee’s Work Status Mandatory

Businesses operating and hiring employees in the U.S. are required to ensure that they are hiring employees who can work legally in the country. In order to help businesses ensure that the employees they hire are legally allowed to work in the country, the government encourages employers to use the E-verify program. The verification of an employee’s employment status through the government’s E-verify program has been voluntary to employers, except for certain employers who work on federal contracts, and employers in states that have laws requiring the use of E-verify.

Under a proposed law, the Legal Workforce Act, employers could be required to use a system modelled after the E-Verify program. The law would require the use of this program to be mandatory for all employers, and would be implemented in stages across the country. The law would preempt state law on this issue, and states would be required to comply with the law, or if they choose, they could enact stricter laws on employment verification.

The bill would require that employees who are not currently verified under the E-verify program to be reverified, which will require the employee to verify that he can work legally in the U.S., and for employers to certify that they verified an employee’s status.  

If the bill is passed and signed into law, employers who use the system to verify their employees’ status will have a defense to allegations of improperly hiring employees who cannot work legally in the country. Therefore, if the system made an error and verified an employee who was not actually legally allowed to work in the country, the employer would not be liable for federal fines.

Employers with 10,000 or more employees would be required to use the new system within six months of the Legal Workforce Act becoming law, employers with 500 to 9,999 employees would have 12 months, employers with 20 to 499 employees would have 18 months, and employers with one to 19 employees would be required to comply with the law within 24 months. There will be different compliance dates for employers hiring agricultural workers.

There are also provisions in the law that seek to stop people from using other people’s social security numbers when applying for positions. These provisions are supposed to limit identity theft.

There have been proposals to make E-verify mandatory in the past, for example, the 2013 Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act proposed to make E-verify mandatory, but it did not make it to law. This time, there is a greater push for these changes, and the bill may have a better chance of becoming law.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you are an immigrant or foreign worker who needs to determine if you are working legally in the U.S., or who needs to adjust your status in order to work legally in the U.S., you need to speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your status. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.

Purchasing a Home as an Undocumented Immigrant

Part of the American dream used to be buying a home and being able to raise a family in that home for many years. For some immigrants, even undocumented ones, this is still a dream and an important goal to attain. However, for undocumented immigrants, this dream may come with some difficulties, but it is still attainable.

It is not illegal for a person who is undocumented in the United States to purchase a car or even a home. The most significant difficulty in making these purchases arises in terms of securing money to make the purchase. Most people buying homes within the United States do so by securing financing through a mortgage. This requires providing the mortgage lender certain personal information that shows an ability to repay a loan in order to be approved for the mortgage.

If a person is undocumented, he may not necessarily have the employment history and credit history to be approved for a mortgage. However, there are some lenders who do different forms of background checks in order to allow a person without a social security number to secure a mortgage. Some immigrants are able to show employment history using tax returns. Undocumented immigrants regularly pay taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number, and this creates the kind of income history that may be acceptable to some lenders.

If an American citizen or permanent resident is married to an undocumented immigrant, the American citizen’s ability to purchase the home may be limited, as well. Some mortgage lenders require a married couple seeking financing to cosign the loan paperwork. Even if the American citizen is somehow able to purchase the home without including the spouse co-signing, the failure to co-sign keeps the American citizen from relying on the undocumented spouse’s income to secure the financing for the purchase of a home.

There is a difference between an immigrant spouse in the process of applying for lawful permanent residence or asylum, and one who may have difficulty in status despite being married to an American citizen. There are different considerations for each of these categories of immigrants, and there would be different considerations for each one.

An undocumented immigrant always has an option of making a cash purchase of a home. While this may be possible in areas of the country where homes are lower priced, it may be difficult or impossible in most areas of California where the cost of living is high. Making cash purchases for a home that is highly priced can also raise questions about the potential home buyer’s income sources, and infer that the income came from illegal sources.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

Home ownership and other strong ties to a community can sometimes be used as evidence against deporting an undocumented immigrant. If you are facing deportation proceedings, you need an experienced immigration attorney to help present your case to stay in the country. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.

Can Local Police Arrest Me for Being Undocumented?

Undocumented immigrants are often said to be breaking the law simply by being in the country. Therefore, some people wonder whether local police in their neighborhood have the authority to arrest and detain someone based solely on the person’s status as an undocumented immigrant. This is a question that is likely to come up more often now that the issue of sanctuary cities is in the spotlight across the country.

Immigration law is a federal matter, which means that state police and local city police officers do not necessarily go out of their way to enforce federal immigration law. Generally, only federal law enforcement officers can take someone into custody for violation of immigration laws. There are some situations under which a non-federal police officer can take a person into custody for suspicion of an immigration law. Federal law enforcement officers can also work with local police to take an undocumented immigrant into custody.

If local police officers were to enforce immigration laws, there is also a problem with how local police would determine which people were illegally in the country and which ones had the valid paperwork to be here. Police officers need reasonable suspicion to stop someone to investigate a crime, and need probable cause or a warrant to make an arrest. These restrictions should make it more difficult for police to target people for harassment or arrest simply because they look “foreign.”

All this does not mean that some police officers do not make up reasons to stop people based on racial profiling, and then look for a reason to arrest a person who may be in the country illegally. Police officers do have the right to stop a person briefly and inquire about their identification.

Once arrested on a criminal charge, for example, driving without a license or driving under the influence of alcohol, an undocumented immigrant can be picked up by federal law enforcement officials. A civil warrant for an undocumented immigrant based on a removal order is not in itself grounds for local police officers to arrest the undocumented immigrant, especially if there is no evidence of an independent criminal act.

Once an undocumented immigrant is arrested and jailed for a criminal offense, he or she is processed in the police system as part of the arrest. Once in the system, federal immigration officials can send a detainer request to the local police department asking that the immigrant be held for federal law enforcement officials to pick him or her up. This is the current issue with sanctuary cities: In those cities, officials have decided that police officers are not required to honor federal detainer requests.

Contact Us for More Information

If your relative or loved one was picked up by immigration enforcement officers after being arrested on a local charge, he or she may be facing deportation soon. A criminal conviction may affect the way the person is able to contest the deportation. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can help, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP today.

Non U.S. Citizen Immigrants and Public Assistance

Non U.S. citizens living in the United States are sometimes unsure of their rights when it comes to applying for and receiving public aid assistance. Part of the uncertainty comes from a fear that if a non U.S. citizen accepts public aid, it could affect the person’s chances at adjusting status later on and applying for citizenship. Others also fear being labeled a burden on the U.S. government.

When people talk about public assistance, they are usually referring to food assistance through either Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, which is also referred to as food stamps); public housing; and, medical insurance through the Medicaid program.

Not every non U.S. citizen living in the United States qualifies for public assistance. For example, undocumented immigrants are generally not eligible to receive public assistance. Immigrants who are in the United States on temporary visas, such as student visas or tourist visas, are also not eligible for assistance. Non U.S. citizens who hold these temporary visas should not accept public aid, even if it is offered by an organization. It could lead to a revocation of their visas.

U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants may be eligible for benefits even if their parents are not. When this happens, the parents may later be penalized for accepting public aid on behalf of their children if the parents try and legalize their status. Accepting public aid is seen as the parent’s inability to financially provide for the children.

In some states there are special programs that do allow public assistance for undocumented immigrants in certain cases. For example in California, undocumented immigrants under the age of nineteen are eligible for medical care under California’s full-scope Medi-Cal program. Under such programs, undocumented children can receive full medical care, and not just emergency medical care as it was in the past.

Legal permanent residents, immigrants who have been granted asylum, or others who have immigrant visas to the United States are generally eligible to receive aid regardless of age if they meet the other economic factors. Public aid programs usually cut off eligibility based on household size and income.

Recent media reporting on proposed rule changes that seek to change immigration in the United States have indicated that under the proposed system, immigrants currently in the United States who receive public assistance would be targeted for deportation. Because these changes are not yet law, if a non U.S. citizen qualifies for public aid and needs it because of financial hardship, he or she should still be able to apply for the assistance. However, it may be wise to consult an attorney as to the implications of the application, especially since there is some uncertainty now as to how that application may affect the person’s chances of permanent status later on.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

For more information on what benefits you may be entitled to as an immigrant living in the United States, and how applying for those benefits can affect you later, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Undocumented Immigrants and Business Ownership

While some immigrants come to the United States to escape dangerous conditions in their countries, a great number of immigrants also come to the United States to seek economic opportunities through better jobs and sometimes owning their own businesses. Undocumented immigrants who want to start their own businesses may find the process straightforward, although it does not ultimately change their immigration status.

An undocumented immigrant starting a business is not something that is technically sanctioned by the law, and in some ways successfully opening the business as an immigrant is a matter of using certain loopholes in the law. Immigrants who want to open a business in the United States are required to obtain an EB-5 visa, which allows the immigrant to apply for a green card in exchange for investing anywhere from half a million to a million or more dollars in a business in the United States. Not many people can afford this type of visa, and therefore undocumented immigrants opt to go through other avenues.

The first and most obvious challenge to starting a business as an undocumented immigrant is the lack of a social security number. However, most undocumented immigrants overcome this by applying for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). In order to apply for a ITIN, a person has to submit some identifying documentation, such as birth certificate or a foreign passport.

ITINs are issued regardless of a person’s immigration status for purposes of filing taxes. This number cannot give a person work authorization in the United States in the same manner as a social security number. Once a person has an ITIN, he can apply for an employer identification number and set up a business.

With these numbers, an undocumented immigrant can apply for city and state licenses to ensure that the business is in compliance with local laws. However, even business owners who have otherwise followed the law on opening the business and paid all required taxes can be deported as easily as non-business owners who are in the country illegally.

An undocumented immigrant who chooses to open a business takes a chance that he or she can be deported at any time. For example, if the business is robbed, or an employee is attacked and the police are called in, the business owner takes the chance that his or her immigration status will come up, resulting in deportation. Business owners must also make sure that they pay all required taxes on the business income in order to avoid legal issues related to the nonpayment of taxes.

Financial challenges may also affect an undocumented immigrant’s ability to open a business. Because of his or her status, the person may not be able to qualify for a business loan or government grant, and has to rely on savings alone. This may mean that it could take a long time to raise the money it would take to launch a business, and therefore, it means deferring the dream of business ownership.

Let Us Help You with Your Immigration Problem

If you are in the country illegally, own a business, and are facing deportation, you need to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Business ownership does not have to act against you in a deportation proceeding. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.