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Miami Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Undocumented students may benefit from Florida legislation

The state of Florida is home to a large number of undocumented immigrant minors who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. Child immigrants are afforded the right to enroll in public schools up until the end of high school. However, when it comes time to go to college, undocumented students are not entitled to receive in-state tuition rates at almost any of Florida's universities. Miami Dade College and Florida International University are the only two schools in South Florida that give tuition waivers to undocumented immigrants, allowing them to pay the same amount as students who are legal state residents.

The program through which students are able to obtain tuition waivers is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Florida Legislature may soon approve a measure that would extend similar benefits to undocumented students throughout the state, provided that the students meet certain criteria. Governor Rick Scott has indicated that he would sign the law if the bill is passed so long as it includes specific conditions.

Decision near on residency status of Iranian immigrant

A federal judge has given the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, 60 days to make a final determination on the application for permanent residency filed by an Iranian immigrant in April of 2001. After waiting for twelve years for his application to be approved or denied, the immigrant filed a lawsuit against the government forcing it to make a decision in his immigration case. While this case is unique, the courts will generally find a delay in excess of six years to be unreasonable for immigrants seeking permanent residency in Florida or anywhere in the United States.

As a teenager in Iran, the applicant distributed literature for two violent organizations in Iran that opposed the US-supported Shah of Iran and his government. The groups are said to have killed U.S. soldiers and civil defense contractors, and also engaged in bombings, mortar attacks and assassinations. If it is determined that the applicant provided material support to these terrorist groups, he may not be eligible for permanent residency status.

Officials deny papal role in release of immigrant from custody

Some Florida residents might be disappointed by the claim of U.S. officials that the temporary release of a Mexican national from a detention facility has nothing to do with the pope. The man's 10-year-old daughter had traveled from the United States to the Vatican with a group of children of undocumented workers to ask the pope to speak to President Obama about their parents' plights. When the girl had a chance to speak to the pope, she told him her father was suffering.

Three days after Pope Francis had met with President Obama, officials released the girl's father on a $5,000 bond. They stated he was released because his friends and family managed to raise enough money to pay his bond and that releasing him under these conditions was "standard procedure." They denied that the pope had played any role in securing the man's release.

Perspective on immigration changing

Attitudes regarding immigration seem to be changing in Florida as at least one Republican has done a complete turnaround in his views on the topic. Three years ago, he wanted to pass a tough bill to discourage immigration. Recently, he expressed his support for a bill that would give in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants who were in college. He explained that even he, whose ancestors had arrived in this country in the 17th century, was an immigrant and that he supported providing undocumented immigrants an education since they planned to live here. He elaborated that the status of parents should not affect how much tuition a student pays.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a tough Arizona law in 2012 after the state spent $3.2 million defending the legislation. The state wanted authorities to check the legal status of anyone who was stopped if they held a 'reasonable suspicion" that the person might not hold legal status. Indiana, Alabama, Utah, Georgia and South Carolina passed similar laws. Other jurisdictions attempted to ask people to prove their citizenship during voter registration or if they had a new job. However, other states learned from Arizona's mistakes and instead are moving toward giving immigrants more benefits, such as in-state tuition and driver's licenses.

Florida House passes DREAMER bill

A bill that recently passed the Florida House would give the children of undocumented immigrants the ability to pay the same rates as other students if they attend college in the state. The law says that students who went to high school in the state for four years would get a tuition waiver. Residents who go to an in-state college typically pay around 25 percent of what an out-of-state student would pay to attend.

The bill passed the House on an 81-to-33 decision that saw many Republicans vote against the bill. While the measure has passed the House, there is no guarantee that it will pass the Senate. Similar bills have been passed in the House and in the Senate previously, but no bill has managed to pass both houses in the same year. Governor Rick Scott supports similar legislation, suggesting that the waiver would limit increases in tuition rates.

New policy helps family members of military personnel

Florida residents may be interested in a new change to immigration law enforcement that could help many illegal immigrants stay in the country and obtain basic benefits and rights. The policy gives military benefits and legal status to illegal immigrants who are the spouses, children or parents of members of the United States military.

President Obama enacted the immigration policy without Congressional approval. Critics say that the President didn't give citizens the opportunity to provide feedback on the policy before it was enacted, and some have even said that the way the policy was enacted may be illegal. However, the administration has said that the policy is legal because it is based on current law and not a new law. Its supporters say the law is long overdue.

Florida illegal immigrant denied law license

A Florida man has been denied the ability to practice law in the state because he entered the country illegally when he was nine years old. On March 6, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants are prohibited from holding professional licenses. However, the court added that the state legislature could take action to override the federal immigration law.

According to media sources, the man and his parents came to the U.S. on a tourist visa, but they never returned to their native country. He attended New College and Florida State University where he ultimately earned a law degree. In 2011, he passed the state bar exam. He applied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which prevents children who were brought to the country illegally by their parents from being deported, and received a permit to work as a paralegal in 2012.

Supreme Court rejects hearing local immigration appeals

Florida is frequently the destination for people immigrating to the United States, and residents may be interested in the news that the U.S. Supreme Court turned down requests for appeals from two towns that had written immigration laws that were overruled by federal laws. Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, had hoped to argue their positions and have the appeals court rulings overturned. It was in 2012 when the Supreme Court heard its last major immigration case.

Reform appears to be stalled in Congress, and local governments think that the existing federal laws do not do enough to control immigration. The towns in question had written laws that required property owners and employers to obtain proof of legal immigration status and penalized those who did not obtain proof. In addition, a tenant could be arrested and fined for failing to produce the proper documents.

Shutdown affects immigration cases

Due to the federal government shutdown in late 2013, many people in Florida and around the country had their hearings delayed for months or years. These individuals were waiting to apply for asylum or for legal permanent resident status.

There were more than 37,000 individuals hoping to have their cases resolved. Instead, their permission to travel to see family or acquire a job has been delayed. Some of these individuals have waited years for a hearing date and now have to wait until 2015 or even later. The problem has been attributed to the staffing shortage by at least one immigration judge, with judges being understaffed as well. The effect has created an imbalance with individuals who have strong cases having to wait even longer for relief while those individuals who are likely to face removal are allowed to stay in the country for longer.

Immigration rulings trending against government

Florida is a popular destination for immigrants to the United States, and readers may be interested in a recently-developing trend. Nearly half of those who are living here illegally are now successful when they stand trial for deportation in immigration court. The trend has been moving away from the government since 2009.

It is not clear what is causing the shift to the benefit of the immigrants. President Obama pledged immigration reform during both of his campaigns, and in October 2013, a reform bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House. In 2011, the courts tried to clear more than 300,000 outstanding cases and dropped many of the pending deportations, and the open case count now stands at more than 360,000. Even though the country has deported over 2 million immigrants since President Obama took office, the administration has issued executive orders requiring discretion to be used when dealing with cases involving those who do not pose a security or safety threat.

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