TPS for Venezuelans? What is the VERDAD Act?

by Jose Enrique Perez

Since the beginning of this year, we have heard about Venezuela and its political crisis almost on a daily basis given that there is a new Interim President named Juan Guaido. On the background, politicians have been working on some measures to help Venezuelans currently in the United States.

The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 is a bill in the current United States Congress presented by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). It aims to extend temporary protected status to Venezuelan nationals in light of the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis and the crisis in Venezuela in general. It is important to keep in mind that this is a bill sponsored by both parties (bipartisan) and therefore has more potential to be passed.

Temporary protected status or “TPS” is a temporary immigration status to the United States, which will be granted to eligible Venezuelan nationals because they are temporarily unable to safely return to Venezuela due to the current civil and political crisis.

If approved by Congress, during the period of approval, TPS beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization. However, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status or “green card” holder status. When the United States terminates the TPS designation, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before TPS unless that status had since expired or been terminated or to any other status they may have acquired while registered for TPS. We need to wait and see what happens in Congress.

There is also the VERDAD Act being considered. This Act, however, is not for help to Venezuelans in the United States. This will provide help to the Venezuelan people still in Venezuela. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are sponsors of this Act that was recently passed in the Senate Committee. It is also a bipartisan act. The Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development (VERDAD) Act, is a comprehensive effort to date to confront the crisis in Venezuela. The VERDAD Act drastically increases humanitarian assistance, expands current tools to address kleptocracy, formally recognizes and supports the Interim President of Venezuela’s efforts to restore democracy and prosperity in the country, and accelerates planning with international financial institutions to advance the country’s post-Maduro reconstruction.

We need to follow very closely the developments of these measures because it estimated that will help millions of Venezuelans both in the United States and in Venezuela.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about potential immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with representation before immigration courts, USCIS or ICE. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez has now moved and is located at 659 West Onondaga Street, Upper Level, Syracuse, New York 13204. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the July edition.

Enough is Enough: Stop Targeting Minorities for Marijuana arrests

by Maximilian Eyle

It’s 2019 and minorities are still being disproportionately targeted by the enforcement of marijuana laws. Because many states have legalized it, there is a misguided assumption that “people aren’t arrested for marijuana anymore”. This is patently untrue. Nearly 600,000 people were arrested in 2017 for marijuana possession. That’s one arrest every 48 seconds. Members of the black and Latino communities continue to be targeted by law enforcement at much higher rates than white people – despite equal rates of drug use. Part of the problem is that many voters today simply do not realize that this is still happening.

Whether or not you use marijuana, you should be concerned about the amount of lives destroyed by these arrests. Having a criminal conviction makes it very difficult to find a job, apply for a loan, or live in public housing. In cases involving marijuana, the arrest will almost certainly do more harm than the drug itself. Furthermore, a tremendous amount of police time and resources are spent handling these cases. Wouldn’t we rather that our police dedicated themselves to catching violent criminals rather than chasing a teenager who decided to smoke a joint?

10 states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, and 33 states plus Washington D.C. have enacted medical marijuana legislation. Despite this, the War on Marijuana is far from over. Tragically, it is still in many ways a War on Black and Latino people. The NYPD announced in 2014 that they would stop arresting people for “low level marijuana possession”, and yet from January to March of 2018 – there were nearly 4,100 arrests for marijuana possession. Of that number, 93% were black or Latino. This is indefensible.


Anyone following the development of drug policy over the past decade understands that the day is rapidly approaching when the federal ban on marijuana will be lifted. New York State is now surrounded by areas where marijuana is legalized, (Canada, Massachusetts, and Vermont so far). But this is little comfort to the many thousands of mostly black and Latino people who are still being locked up or at least harassed for marijuana charges. It’s time we let our politicians know that enough is enough.

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

Access to Visas: Mission Impossible

by Jose Enrique Perez

Many people come to the United States for different reasons. Family, business, pleasure and even for school. It has always been difficult to get a visa, however, now the Trump administration is making it impossible.

In 2017, about 3,000 visas were rejected. 2018, however, showed a significant increase. The State Department admitted that it had rejected 13,450 immigrant visa applications (not counting non-immigrant visas) in the fiscal year 2018 based on the possibility the applicants could become a “public charge” once they arrive in the U.S.

The rejections represent a 316% increase over the previous year, when only 3,237 immigrant visa applicants were turned away. Not only the Trump Administration is sweeping immigrants in the United States; now, he is also making sure people don’t come. That reminds me a heavily quoted statement made by the President when he was discussing TPS (Temporary Protected Status) when he said he did not want people coming here from “sh**hole” countries.

The spike in denials follows Trump administration changes to the State Department consular guidance. The changes broadened the scope of who could be refused a visa based on the likelihood the person may require public assistance.

In January 2018, the department instructed consular officers to consider the past or current receipt of any type of public assistance when deciding whether a person could become a public charge. Previously, the officers had been told only to consider two types of benefits: cash assistance or long-term institutionalized care paid by the government.

We cannot even imagine the consequences of a change in policy regarding public charge and applications for visa for immigrants and non-immigrants alike in the United States.

Internally in the United States, Trump’s proposed public charge rule, which was published in the Federal Register in October of 2018, would allow immigration officers to deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive a wide range of government benefits. Additionally, the measure would subject temporary visitors to increased scrutiny. This proposal has received wide opposition not only from Democrats, but also from businesses, media, academia, immigrant organizations, among others.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the new immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with representation before immigration courts, USCIS or ICE. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the May edition.

The Wall – The Bone of Contention

by Jose Enrique Perez

For the last two months, we have been hearing about the shutdown and how employees of the federal government have not been receiving their paychecks. What is the reason? Trump’s wall.

President Trump has said that he wants the wall to control the illegal immigration flow. He decided to go into a shutdown of the federal government because he was not receiving the funding of the wall. However, he said more than 1,000 times that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. So, I am confused: Why we shut down the federal government for not getting the money for a wall that Mexico was going to pay?

Before Christmas, Trump decided not to reach an agreement with the democrats to keep the government open. However, on January 25, 2019, he caved, and the shutdown ended after 35 days. The agreement reached did not include one dime for Trump’s wall.

The fact that we are getting the government open and workers back to their jobs does not mean that this is over. The government has been reopened only until February 15, 2019. We are very likely to experience a new shutdown again on that day. The government is only reopening for three weeks and the fight over Trump’s wall is far from over.

Now, he has threatened to declare a national emergency to build his wall. Really? There is no national emergency at the border. All government agencies agree that the border is more secure than ever. Almost nobody is able to cross the border without detection.

President Trump spent 35 days pushing a million federal workers to the wall, but not his wall, and forced to go to Welfare and receive food stamps while not being able to receive paychecks for almost two months. He is forcing the nation to make us choose between federal workers and the immigrant communities. The government never needed to shut down, and the stress felt by federal workers, their families, and the fear of the immigrant communities was not necessary.

We have to make sure not to politicize the issue of immigration. It is not immigrant against the United States. It is not about nativists against people who look different. This is not about Republicans against Democrats. This is a nation of immigrants and it will always be despite Trump. We don’t need a wall. We need to continue fighting for a comprehensive immigration reform. We need a just, humane, legal approach to immigration and not a racist, divisive agenda.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the new immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with representation before immigration courts, USCIS or ICE. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the March edition.

Drug Policy Doublethink

The great contradiction of our drug policy
by Maximilian Eyle

Whether or not one supports the disease model of addiction, it seems remarkable that the government is admitting in no uncertain terms that they are criminalizing the very people they claim are ill.

In the face of a growing opioid epidemic, the U.S. Government has defined its position on addiction. Visit the website for The National Institute of Health’s information service MedlinePlus and you will see that they define addiction as a medical problem; specifically, “a chronic disease”. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) seconds this analysis, stating:

“Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will.”1

The government’s language here is striking because despite these statements, the United States continues to treat drug use as a criminal issue, rather than as a public health issue. They agree that drug use is not a moral failing, yet there were over 1.6 million drug arrests in 2017. Make no mistake – more than 85% of these arrests were for possession alone. The idea that law enforcement is only targeting illegal drug manufacturers and dealers is a myth. Most victims of America’s War on Drugs are the users themselves, many of whom suffer from addiction.

There is a complex and ongoing debate as to whether drug addiction qualifies as a disease. Regardless of your position on that issue, both sides should be able to agree that the nation’s current drug policy landscape is fraught with contradictions. The policy of arresting people for drug offenses clearly has no impact on overdose prevention. On the contrary, The American Journal of Public Health reported that recently released inmates are 40 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the average person.2 When we compare the amount of annual drug arrests with the amount of annual drug overdose fatalities, we can clearly see that the incarceration of drug users is worsening the opioid epidemic – not helping it.

The contradiction between the rhetoric of the government and the actions of law enforcement must be rectified. If the U.S. Government truly regards the opioid epidemic as a public health concern, they should start investing their resources into public health resources and harm reduction initiatives rather than punitive measures.

Sources:
1. https://medlineplus.gov/opioidabuseandaddiction.html
2. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304514?journalCode=ajph
3. https://www.drugwarfacts.org/table/annual-drug-arrests

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

Why nations fail?

by Juan Carlos “Pocho” Salcedo, Internacionalista

There is a question that we often ask ourselves that in some way by origin or by the language we are connected with Latin America.

Today we will try to answer a question that we have inevitably asked many times because some countries are poor and others are rich, and it will be like in the case of Latin America because our background in which we were born as a nation was after Spanish colonialism? Moreover, on the other hand, the United States developed from an early age under the colonial system of Great Britain, and that favored them? Maybe we just became poor because others became rich at the expense of us and our resources? Are we condemned to a system of perpetual underdeveloped t? How to get out of that almost infinite walk? What is in the fabric of our nations that has not allowed us a higher level of influence and wealth in the concert of nations? What are the origins of Power, prosperity, and poverty?

To answer these and other questions, we have invited Dr. Daron Acemoglu one of the 110 most quoted economists in the world; this was our recent dialogue.

Click here for the video

All Immigrants in New York have Right to Trial by Jury

by Jose Enrique Perez

Just last month, the New York State’s highest court said that the U.S. Constitution guarantees jury trials to non-citizens charged with crimes that could subject them to deportation. It is very likely that the case will go to the United States Supreme Court for final determination.

The Court of Appeals rejected an argument by Bronx county prosecutors that deportation is merely a civil consequence of criminal convictions, and the Sixth Amendment did not require jury trials for defendants charged with minor yet deportable crimes.

The court found that “It is now beyond cavil that the penalty of deportation is among the most extreme and that it may, in some circumstances, rival incarceration in its loss of liberty.”

The decision means non-citizens will be entitled to jury trials even if their alleged deportable crimes carry maximum prison terms of six months or less.

The risk for deportation of a non-U.S. citizen accused of a low-level crime is enough to guarantee that individual have a trial by jury rather than a bench trial.

The Bronx District Attorney said the decision addressed the “harsh realities” of possible deportation, but also threatened “serious backlogs and disparities in the administration of justice” in state courts and conflicted with Supreme Court precedents. She said she may appeal to that body.

The decision, over Sixth Amendment fair trial rights under the U.S. Constitution for persons facing deportation, was one of first impression for the Court of Appeals. It was brought before the court by Saylor Suazo, a non-citizen who was found guilty in a bench trial on various charges related to an alleged assault. He had over stayed his visa.

Because of the importance of the case and its consequences, the Bronx District Attorney said she was considering taking an appeal on the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court since it was decided on federal constitutional grounds.

The key issue in the case was the gradation of the criminal charge Suazo had been tried upon. The Criminal Law in New York allows a defendant to be denied a trial by jury in New York City if the maximum penalty of a charge is less than six months in jail. The same rule does not apply outside New York City.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the new immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with the filing of applications with USCIS. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the January edition. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2019!