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Entries in Deportation (7)

Sunday
Mar312013

Home Schooling German Family Fights Deportation

Comstock/Thinkstock(MORRISTOWN, Tenn.) -- A German family that fled to the United States in 2008 to be free to home school their children is fighting deportation after a decision granting them asylum was overturned.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, devout Christians from the southwest of Germany who now have six children, initially took their three oldest children out of school in their native country in 2006. Shortly after, the German government started fining the family and threatening them with legal action.

Home schooling has been illegal in Germany since 1918, when school attendance was made compulsory, and parents who choose to homeschool anyway face financial penalties and legal consequences, including the potential loss of custody of their children.

To escape such legal action, the family fled to the United States in 2008 and was granted political asylum in 2010, eventually making their home in Tennessee. U.S. law states that individuals can qualify for asylum if they can prove they are being persecuted because of their religion or because they are members of a particular "social group."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement challenged the decision to grant the Romeikes asylum to the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2012, claiming that Germany's stringent policy against homeschooling did not constitute persecution.

The board overturned the initial asylum decision, arguing that homeschoolers are not a particular social group because they don't meet certain legal standards, The board said that the home-schooled population is too vague and amorphous to constitute a social group.

Now the family is fighting that decision in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case on April 23.

"We think we have a pretty strong case," Romeike family attorney Michael Donnelly told ABC News. "We feel that what Germany is doing by preventing this family and a lot of other families from exercising their rights in the education of their children violates a fundamental human right," he said.

Donnelly says the right of parents to decide the direction of their child's education has been established in Article 26, section 3 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."

"Our Supreme Court has said that the state cannot unduly burden, restrict, or direct childrens' education privately," said Donnelly, referring to a precedent established in a 1925 case, Pierce v. Society of Sisters.

Karla McKanders, an asylum and refugee law specialist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told ABC News the family faces an uphill battle.

"They are trying to establish that they are eligible for asylum under the social group category, which is a difficult group to prove in the first place," McKanders said.

McKanders also says that public policy implications as far as the United States' relationship with Germany could also be in play in this case, and that immigration officials may be wary of setting a precedent that establishes home schooling as a means for asylum.

"They don't want to open up the floodgates for similar asylum claims based on these grounds," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug172012

For Some 'Dreamers' the Wait for Legal Status Is Just Beginning

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- From Chicago to Los Angeles, thousands of young undocumented immigrants have flooded consulates, cafeterias and convention centers seeking legal guidance and paper proof that they are eligible for a "deferred action permit," which will allow them to work legally for two years in the country they grew up in.

The federal government began accepting applications for the permits on Wednesday.  To be eligible, immigrants must be under the age of 31, have come to the United States before their 16th birthday, attended school or enrolled in the military and be able to prove they resided in the country for the past five years.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, as many as 1.8 million could be eligible.

But in Arizona, the benefits of legal status may still be a far off dream.  Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who is notorious for her hardline stance on immigration, signed an executive order Wednesday evening barring people with deferred status from obtaining driver's licenses or other state benefits.

Under Arizona law, people applying for a driver's license could use their federal work permit to prove that they were in the country legally.  Under Brewer's order, work permits given to people through the deferred action process will not qualify for a license.

"The Arizona driver's license is the gateway to public benefits in this state," said Matthew Benson, the spokesman for the governor's office.  "If the state doesn't have the authority to block these illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses our agencies will have no way of knowing who is entitled to public benefits."

Brewer said in the executive order that providing benefits to the young immigrants, as many as 80,000 of whom reside in Arizona, will "have significant and lasting effects on the Arizona budget, health care system and additional public benefits that Arizona taxpayers fund."

Arizona has been a hotspot of contention over immigration policy, having instated one of the strictest immigration laws in the country in 2010.  The majority of the law, often referred to as SB 1070, was struck down by the Supreme Court in July.  The court upheld the most contentious aspect of the law: the authority of police to check the legal status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

But because the deferred action permits do not make immigrants legal residents, Brewer's executive order "really doesn't do much," said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Arkansas, who studies gubernatorial power.

"It was certainly an opportunity for her [Gov. Brewer] to reiterate her credibility on the immigration issue but it really didn't do anything substantively to change things," Barth said.  "She was essentially reiterating what was already in the law."

Gov. Brewer's spokesman confirmed that the executive order "does not change existing law," it just "reaffirms" it.

Ann Morse, program director at the National Conference on State Legislature's Immigrant Policy Project, said Brewer's order merely "affirmatively stated" what had been left unsaid.  While the permits prevent deportation, they do not give immigrants access to most state benefits.

Morse said "dreamers" are stuck in a legal "limbo" with the deferred action permits.  They cannot be deported, but they are not on a path to citizenship and are only granted the right to work for two years.

"It is a pause button until Congress acts," Morse said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has tried for 11 years to pass the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children and attended college or served in the military.  He said the two-year deferred action permits are a "positive step forward, but there's much more to do."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug162012

'Millionaire Matchmaker' Client, Convicted Fraudster, Sentenced to Federal Prison

Hemera/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Michael Prozer III, who once appeared on the reality TV show The Millionaire Matchmaker and later pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

Prozer appeared on season two of the hit Bravo series that matches single wealthy people with potential spouses.

He was sentenced Thursday to eight years and six months in prison after pleading guilty in April to federal charges that he conspired to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, and made a false statement to a financial institution.

The 38-year-old Tampa, Fla., man admitted he swindled Park Avenue Bank, a now-defunct Georgia institution, out of a $3 million loan that he never repaid. Prozer paid a co-defendant $25,000 to falsify a document claiming he had more than $21 million on deposit that could be used as collateral. No such funds existed, according to the local U.S. Attorney's Office.

During his appearance on the Bravo show, Prozer, who is the father of two young boys, told television audiences that he was the millionaire CEO of Xchange Agent Inc., an online payment service for people in South America. He also claimed to own a mansion and private jet.

Prior to his guilty plea, Prozer had maintained his innocence, but said in court on Thursday that he took "responsibility for what happened," the Tampa Tribune reported.

Fedor Stanley Salinas, 36, of Bethesda, Md., also pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud. Salinas, who was a financial specialist at Wachovia Bank in Langley Park, Md., provided the false letter of credit stating Prozer had more than $21 million on deposit, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Salinas was sentenced to 27 months in prison, after which he will be deported to Ecuador, the Tribune reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug152012

Young Illegal Immigrants May Now Apply for Deportation Relief

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After a lifetime of fearing deportation, being banned for legal work and fighting to stay in the country they grew up in, thousands and thousands of young undocumented immigrants could soon get a reprieve as the federal government begins accepting applications for deferred action permits on Wednesday.

Immigrants who are under the age of 31 and were brought into the country before their 16th birthdays are eligible for the permits, which will allow them to stay in the country legally for two years.  According to the Migration Policy Institute, up to 1.76 million could be eligible.

"I have been waiting for this day and will be in line early," Jose Cabrera, a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, told ABC's Gina Sunseri in Houston.  "I hope this means someday I can be a real citizen."

In order to receive the deferred action permit, immigrants have to either be currently enrolled in school or have a high school diploma or GED.  Honorably discharged veterans are also eligible to apply.  Felons and people with more than three misdemeanors will not be given permits, according to the policy.

The price tag for a two-year exemption from deportation is a hefty one for many -- $465 per application.  A non-profit group in Houston, Protectors of the Dream, announced on Tuesday that they would be awarding 10 to 25 grants to cover the application fee for some Houston-area immigrants.

"This generation of young scholars and activists that has come to be known as the Dream Act generation is amazing," Jacob Monty, who's with the Monty & Ramirez law firm, one of the founders of the group, said in a statement. 

"We are inspiring our business and professional community to lend the resources, skills, and vision to this cause to lobby for more profound immigration reform and to be witness to how this administration and future administrations treat our young as they step out of the shadows to attempt to take part in the American Dream.  We want to start by alleviating the burden of filing fees for DREAMERS," he said.

Under the new policy, so-called "dreamers" would be granted legal status and work permits, but not a path to citizenship or the right to vote.

In June, President Obama announced the measure, igniting a hailstorm of controversy.

Republican leaders in Congress blasted the policy as out-of-touch with the harsh job market U.S. citizens already face.

"[The] deferred action guidance is another example of how the president's policies put the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R., Texas) told ABC News when the policy was announced.

Applications will be reviewed on an individual, case-by-case basis.  It is unclear how long each review will take.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Government Deports 400,000 Illegal Immigrants in One Year

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly 400,000 undocumented aliens were kicked out of the U.S. from October 2010 through September 2011.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau says that the largest number of illegal immigrants ever deported since records have been kept on the matter.

ICE Director John Morton claimed the success of the program was due to the bureau targeting illegal immigrants believed to be a threat to society rather than those who are considered harmless. In fact, more than half of the 397,000 people deported had been previously convicted of felony or misdemeanor crimes.

Despite the record number of people being removed from the U.S., Republicans say that the policy enforced by ICE covers up the Obama administration's attempts at making it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship.

Meanwhile, the White House is also being criticized by Latino groups. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the interests of illegal immigrants, say the policies practiced by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security are needlessly breaking up families while spending taxpayer money that could toward go more deserving causes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May132011

Calif. Woman Who Called 911 to Report Abuse Gets Reprieve from Deportation

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Federal immigration officials have relented on deporting a Los Angeles woman who called 911 to report that her boyfriend was beating her up.

Isaura Garcia, 20, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, made the desperate call for help in February, according to her lawyer, Jennie Pasquarella of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Garcia, who has a year-old baby daughter, Stacy, had endured repeated beatings at the hands of her boyfriend Ricardo Leos, 19, also an illegal immigrant, according to Pasquarella. He is now in jail in Los Angeles on a vehicular manslaughter charge stemming from a fatal DUI in March, according to the Los Angeles sheriff's office.

Leos had kicked Garcia out the house, the lawyer said, but while he was at work she returned to the building, where her mother also lives, to see her baby.

While she was there, Leos came back and Garcia "panicked" and called 911, Pasquarella said. Police came, but when Leos alleged that his girlfriend was the batterer and showed a scratch on his neck, "they took the handcuffs off Ricardo and put them on Isaura and at that moment she fainted."

Garcia was taken to the hospital where a doctor found bruises on her body. Two days later, the police charges against Garcia were dismissed.

But her arrest triggered deportation procedures under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Secure Communities program, which sends fingerprints of anyone arrested to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration checks.

After a press conference on the case Thursday, ICE backed down. "This action conforms with the policy (Immigration and Customs) is in the process of finalizing that would guide how the agency uses its prosecutorial discretion in removal cases involving the victims and witnesses of crime, including domestic violence," the agency said in a statement.

The Secure Communities program has sparked controversy in a number of U.S. states and cities. Illinois has pulled out, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the American Immigration Lawyers Association have asked President Obama to suspend the initiative.

But immigration officials say the two-year-old program has led to the removal of 72,000 undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, a third of whom committed violent offenses.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov012010

Gay Immigrants Deported, Even in Legal Marriages

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Joshua Vandiver, a Colorado native who is earning his Ph.D. in politics at Princeton University, said he is the studious type who has rarely embraced activism. Now, just months into his legal marriage to Venezuelan Henry Velandia, he is fighting to save his husband from being deported.

Had the couple been straight and not gay, Vandiver would have been allowed to apply for permanent residence status for Velandia, who could then later apply for citizenship.

But their dream to build a life together is been derailed by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman under all federal laws, including immigration.

"I am a scholar of ancient Greek political thought and the Renaissance and politics," said Vandiver, 29. "I never intended or wanted to be an activist. But I have to do what is necessary to save my marriage and to keep the one I love in this country. I think that is my right as an American citizen."

On November 17th, the couple will go before a federal immigration judge to ask that deportation proceedings be halted until legal challenges or a Congressional repeal of DOMA have been resolved.

Vandiver has applied for a petition to allow Velandia to stay in this country, an application that will surely be denied. And with that rejection letter, the couple will consider a lawsuit. "I see that as discriminatory," said Vandiver.

"I am really frightened thinking that I will have to live without my other half," said Velandia, a salsa dancer. "But we have faith and are doing the best we can."

The United States is home to about 24,000 same-sex couples in which one partner is an American citizen and the other is not, according to an analysis of 2008 census survey data by the Williams Institute, University of California Los Angeles Law School. About 25 percent of those couples have children.

No one knows how many of these couples have immigration problems. Some obtain legal residency through work visas, applying for asylum or getting green cards on their own. Others leave for countries that have more favorable laws.

"We are bringing this to light to help policy makers understand exactly how it impacts lives and to find a remedy and to consider whether it's a high priority to deport a lawfully married spouse," said their Los Angeles lawyer, Lavi Soloway.

Soloway is representing the couple and 11 others around the country who face deportation of a foreign-born spouse.

"At the time [DOMA] was passed, gay couples in the U.S. didn't have the opportunity to be married," he said. "Now, we finally have a critical mass of same-sex couples who are seeing the impact of DOMA."

Velandia immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 on an employment-sponsored visa, founding his own dance school, HotSalsaHot. He has appeared in the Spanish-language television show "Mira Quien Baila."

Vandiver and Velandia have lived together in New Jersey since 2006. Princeton recognized them as domestic partners in 2007, and this summer, they married in Connecticut, where same-sex marriage is legal.

"I started from zero in this country -- new language, new culture," said Velandia. "It's been like the American Dream."

However when his visa expired, an application for a green card was denied. In 2009, Velandia received a notice of deportation. If deported, he could be barred from entering the U.S. for 10 years.

According to the New York-based advocacy organization Immigration Equality, thousands of these gay couples -- one American and one an immigrant -- leave the U.S. each year for countries where gay immigrants are welcome.

Vandiver and Velandia say neither wants to leave the United States.

"My training is to be a professor and teach political theory in an American context," said Vandiver. "I really need to stay in America to pursue my studies and my work. I don't think I should have to leave America."

Velandia said he cannot imagine going back to Venezuela, where he lived a closeted life.

"With my relationship with Josh in America, I found the love of my life. I can actually be myself," he said. "It's ridiculous to try to go back to Venezuela being a gay man. I was repressed by the culture and religious beliefs. Going back would be like going into the past."

"We expect DOMA to be defeated in a few years and be history," said Soloway. "We want people like Henry to be here."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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