What to do if an employer refuses to pay you?

This week, we heard a familiar story from one of our immigrant friends: He completed work for a contractor more than a month ago, but the contractor has not paid him. He is owed almost $4,000. The contractor told our friend, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay you when I get paid,” but now is not responding to our friend’s calls or texts. Our friend does not have a work permit or residency, and is afraid the contractor won’t pay him.

But, the law in Texas is clear: If you get hired for work, you get paid for that work. Immigration status does not matter. An employer who refuses to pay for work has committed a crime called Wage Theft, and the worker is entitled to be paid back wages, and sometimes more.

So, what should you do if an employer refuses to pay you for work that you’ve done? Here are some options:
1. Contact the Worker’s Defense Project. This is an organization with almost two decades helping workers recover stolen wages, learn their rights, and fight for better laws to protect workers. They have offices in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. Click here to visit their website.
2. Submit a Wage Claim with Texas Workforce Commission. Click here to see information on how to do this.
3. Contact an employment law attorney in your area. Depending on the amount of stolen wages, an attorney may or may not be able to take your case. This is why organizations like WDP are so important – they can help no matter the amount you need to recover.

Finally, if you are a victim of wage theft, DO NOT DELAY in taking action! The law provides only two years to file a law suit to recover your wages, and that time can slip away faster than you think.

If you are a client of WGV and have been the victim of wage theft in the past two years, please call or email your attorney for assistance.

What Should I Do If A Family Member Is Detained Crossing Into USA Without Permission?

If your loved one’s from Mexico, more than likely, he or she’s going to be simply picked up, turned around and sent right back home. However, if he or she is from any other country in the world, then he will be placed into what’s called the “expedited removal” process.

Expedited removal is a process by which the government detains you and then it contacts your home country to get you a passport or travel document. Once the passport is obtained then you’re simply put on the next flight home and sent right back to your home country. The only way to get out of the expedited removal process is to request asylum in the United States or to express fear of returning to your home country.

The way to request asylum in the United States is to express fear of returning to your home country and request what’s called a “credible fear” interview. You need to do this at every opportunity because a lot of the agents that are processing individuals entering the United States have so many cases to handle that they may not initially take your case seriously if you are saying that you’re afraid, so it’s important to repeat and insist that you need a credible fear interview and that you should not be sent home to your home country.

In the credible fear interview, you’ll have a chance to talk to an asylum officer about your case. You’ll be able to explain why you’re afraid, who you’re afraid of, what’s happened to you that’s made you afraid, whether your family has been harmed, whether the government can protect you from future harm or whether you can return and live in any other part of the country.

You may be able to have an deportation attorney present at a credible fear interview. However, most likely the attorney will only be able to be present by telephone. This is because most of the detention centers in the United States are located in remote areas. The attorney may be far away and will not have time between the time he or she is notified of the credible fear interview to travel to the detention center to actually be physically with you. However, he or she can be present by telephone and sometimes this is very helpful.
Documents are not required at the credible fear interview. However, it can be helpful if you do have documentation regarding your claim, such as police reports, newspaper articles, letters from friends or family about what’s happened, etc.

Having a positive credible fear interview doesn’t give you asylum in the United States. However, it does give you the opportunity to ask for asylum before the immigration judge. It is the immigration judge, not the immigration officer, in these cases that can grant asylum. So most of the time, if your credible fear interview has a positive outcome, you’ll be allowed to exit detention and present your case before the court after you’ve had some time to prepare it with evidence, documentation, and testimony.

What’s most important about the credible fear interview is to be truthful and thorough. You don’t want to leave out major events that have occurred that left you feeling fearful for your life in your home country. Try to remember to include everything that you possibly can, that resulted in you having fear of returning to your home country and needing asylum in the United States. However, don’t exaggerate your story or embellish your story. Be as truthful as possible so that later when you present your asylum case to the court, it matches as closely as possible the story that you told the officer during the credible fear interview.

Crossing the Texas-Mexico border without a visa is extremely dangerous. The best way to request asylum in the United States if you need protection here, is to simply approach the immigration agents that work on the international bridge between Texas and Mexico, rather than trying to cross in illegally into the United States. Such crossings have resulted in many deaths and do not help your case. What’s best for your case is to simply request asylum from the Mexican side of the border to the immigration agents that work on the bridge. Please be careful and let us know if we can help.

Jennifer Walker Gates On G+

The Rights of Immigrant Children in the United States

Immigrant children in the United States have many of the same rights as children who are lawfully in the United States. Immigrant kids have a right to enroll in school. They can enroll in any public school and to receive services in school that any other child, whether born in the United States or born outside of the United States, can receive. They also have a right to MAP, which is the Medical Assistance Program of Travis County. This is a special health insurance program that exists in Travis County for people with limited financial resources, where immigration status is not taken into account for eligibility. Immigrant children also have the right to have their parents go to court for divorces, for protective orders, or for custody of the children, without regards to their immigration status. Immigrant children also have the right the fight their case in immigration court and to request asylum or any other immigration benefit that they might be entitled to.

If a child is in danger, he or she should request asylum so he’s not sent back to a dangerous situation. There are special processes for kids that allow kids to have a non-adversarial hearing, and if kids don’t request asylum when they first come to the US, it becomes harder if they’re sent back the their country and need to return to the US for their safety for them to get the same benefits.

The child, him or herself, can request an asylum interview and can say that she wants to apply for asylum. A parent or a guardian can say that the child needs asylum and can express that fear of return to the court or to the shelter where the child is living. Or any adult who knows the child and who knows that the child could be in danger in her country should request an asylum interview on behalf of the child.

For children who are under 18 years old, there are special processes to request asylum. They are allowed a chance to speak with an immigration asylum official rather than a judge to request asylum. And if they are not granted at the asylum office when speaking with an immigration official, they have a second chance to request asylum before an immigration judge.

It’s important to talk about why you’re scared, to talk about specific experiences that made you scared or feel threatened in your home country, and to express how these experiences affected you personally. You should also discuss who you’re scared of. If there’s a particular person or group that you’re afraid will hurt you in particular, if you’ve been threatened by this group or if you’ve ever been physically hurt or harmed by this person or group, and then to discuss whether there are other people who have the same fear as you and why they have the same fear as you. If you know others who have been hurt, or harmed, or threatened by the person or group that you fear, mention that. Lastly, you should discuss why you think this danger still exists in your country, mentioning whether you could go anywhere else to be safe or whether the whole country is a place where you might be in danger. In particular, you should be very specific and mention as much detail as you can, and always tell the truth in your asylum interview.

Jennifer Walker Gates On G+