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1 Immigrants in Maine's Schools: An Overview of Immigration Law and Other Issues Affecting Students and Families Immigrants in Maine's Schools: An Overview.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Immigrants in Maine's Schools: An Overview of Immigration Law and Other Issues Affecting Students and Families Immigrants in Maine's Schools: An Overview."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Immigrants in Maine's Schools: An Overview of Immigration Law and Other Issues Affecting Students and Families Immigrants in Maine's Schools: An Overview of Immigration Law and Other Issues Affecting Students and Families Beth Stickney, Esq. Executive Director, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project November 22, 2010 Maine Department of Education ESL/Bilingual Programs Professional development online webinar


3 3 ILAP is Maines only statewide nonprofit provider of free & low-fee comprehensive immigration law and related legal aid Office is in Portland; satellite hours in Lewiston; toll-free access for Mainers far from Portland at Intake on Fridays 9 – 1. More information at

4 4 Who Are Maines Immigrants? Each year, ILAP serves immigrants from over 100 countries of origin, now living in all 16 Maine counties Refugees are a small percentage of all immigrants in Maine Maine likely has more Latin Americans than Africans Census 2010 numbers will likely greatly undercount Maines immigrants

5 5 In 2008, 3.0 percent of Maine's total population were foreign-born (or immigrants), compared to 2.9 percent in 2000 and 3.0 percent in At the national level, the foreign-born population represented 12.5 percent of the total population in 2008, compared to 11.1 percent in 2000 and 7.9 percent in Between 2000 and 2008, the foreign-born population (or immigrants) of Maine changed from 36,691 to 39,378, an increase of 7.3 percent. In comparison, between 1990 and 2000, the foreign-born population changed from 36,296 to 36,691, an increase of 1.1 percent. At the national level, between 1990 and 2000 the foreign-born population increased by 57.4 percent, and between 2000 and 2008 increased by 22.0 percent. 56.7% of immigrants (or 22,315 people) in Maine were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2008meaning that they are eligible to vote. More than four in five (or 84%) of children in Maines immigrant families were U.S. citizens in Migration Policy Institute/MPI Data Hub: MAINE Social & Demographic Characteristics Immigration Policy Center / American Immigration Council Maines immigrant population

6 6 What Legal Statuses do Immigrants in Maine have? There are dozens upon dozens of immigration statuses All children have the Constitutional right to attend K-12 public schools, regardless of immigration status Just a few of the myriad immigration statuses will be described here

7 7 Immigration Statuses Undocumented (no visa, or violated visa) Nonimmigrant (temporary visa) Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Application for permanent status pending (may have or be eligible for a work permit) Petition for residency pending (no work permit) Refugee or Asylee Parolee Permanent resident (2 or 10 year green card- residency card) Naturalized U.S. citizen

8 8 Undocumented Includes persons who entered without a visa, with a fraudulent document, or with a nonimmigrant visa but then stayed too long, or otherwise didnt comply w/visa. May or may not be in removal proceedings. Often in mixed status households – spouse is resident or citizen, has US citizen children, etc. Concerns: How to get legal status / a work permit Worry about being detected by Immigration Authorities (ICE/CBP) Worry about getting employers, household members in trouble If have children, worry that signing children up for benefits the children are entitled to will cause immigration problems (detection/denial of residency)

9 9 Nonimmigrants Includes tourists, students, temporary workers. Concerns include: How to extend their stay How to get a work permit (unrestricted) How to get permanent residency F-1 students in public schools – can only attend one year, and must pay tuition. If host family takes guardianship so that student can attend w/o paying, student will be barred for 5 years from extending or receiving another visa (so could not, for example, get F-1 to attend US university for 5 years)

10 10 TPS Holders TPS allows certain people to stay and work in the U.S. due to natural or civil crises in their home countries. Usually have work permits. Concerns include: How to get family here How to get permanent residency Will receiving government benefits affect their ability to become permanent residents Currently in Maine, many Hondurans, Salvadorans, and some Haitians, Somalis and Sudanese have TPS

11 11 Applicants for permanent status Includes persons applying for asylum, persons applying for permanent residency. May be in removal proceedings. Concerns include: Whether their cases will be denied Whether they have enough income to be approved for residency Whether they are putting their US citizen or resident family members at risk Whether their family members abroad are safe, and whether and when theyll be able to be together again

12 12 Petitions pending for residency Includes spouses and children of permanent residents, married or over 21 year old children, and siblings of U.S. citizens. Also sometimes employees petitioned for by their employers. Concerns include: Can they get work permit Will they be found and deported before they can immigrate Whether they are putting their US citizen or resident family members at risk Will they have complications once they are eligible to start the final paperwork to immigrate – including, does their family earn enough money – must earn 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.

13 13 Refugees and Asylees Refugees apply for protection from outside the U.S. Asylees do so from inside the U.S. Concerns include: For refugees and asylees: how to be reunited with/safety of, family members abroad For asylees: can they get work permit For asylees: will their application be denied For both: how to get residency For both: how to be reunited w/ spouses, children, other family members For asylees: what happens if theres divorce before residency granted

14 14 Parolees Parolees are people who dont qualify for other visas but are let in for humanitarian or national interest reasons. Parolees in Maine sometimes have status similar to refugees, or another status altogether, but in any case can stay here as long as parole status is unexpired and no other laws are violated. Concerns include: how to get residency concerns for family members left behind public benefits eligibility (some are paroled in for medical treatment, but need to survive between treatments)

15 15 Permanent residents May have gained residency through a variety of ways. Concerns include: How to get other immediate family members here Will public benefits affect ability to help family immigrate, or to become a US citizen How to become a citizen If permanent resident through marriage to a US citizen, what impact will separation or divorce have on status (especially immigrants in domestic violence situations)

16 16 Naturalized U.S. citizens Generally, a person is eligible to apply for naturalization to U.S. citizenship if s/he: Is over 18 has had residency for 5 years has good moral character can speak, read and write English can pass a test of understanding of US history and civics some exceptions are available for the English/history requirement.

17 17 How do people immigrate? There are 4 general ways that people can immigrate (get permanent residency) to the U.S.: Through a grant of refugee or asylee status Through immediate family members (residents can file for spouses and unmarried offspring; citizens can additionally file for married offspring, parents and siblings) – long waiting lists apply for most relatives Through employers (professional level employment) Through the Visa Lottery – 50,000 visas each year available to individuals with at least a high school education or skilled trade – one computerized entry allowed each year.

18 18 Barriers to immigration Endless background checks Law is biased against low-income people (threshold income must be proven by U.S. citizens or residents who want their spouses/children etc. to immigrate) Lack of documents to prove relationships (for example, no birth certificates are available from Somalia to prove a parent/child relationship) Lack of money to pay for air fare to bring family from abroad Many others

19 19 Global Concerns for Immigrant Families Family reunification Jobs, school, living conditions, money, supporting family abroad etc. Impact of contact with the criminal justice system on immigration status (especially parents concerned about their children getting into trouble) Domestic violence issues Public benefits eligibility – accessing benefits during hard times; not being cut off due to welfare reform laws

20 20 Special Concerns for Immigrant Students If undocumented: How attend college? (legal status not required to attend, but cant qualify for federal financial aid if undocumented) Racial profiling: In Maine, people of color are frequently stopped by police and asked for their immigration papers Students should be encouraged to take charge of their own immigration status – if they are in a status that leads to citizenship eligibility, usually much easier for them to become citizens than their parents because they learn English more quickly etc. (but should NOT file anything with Immigration if theyve ever been had contact with Police, until theyve consulted an immigration lawyer)

21 21 Tips for K-12 Educators Never ask for immigration status (unless theres a grant that requires it) Never exclude an immigrant child from school based on concern about immigration status (unconstitutional) Contd…

22 22 Tips for K-12 Educators, contd If a host family of a foreign exchange student asks whether the student could attend for free if they take legal guardianship of the student, advise them to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer immediately (they could seriously prejudice the student by doing this) Do not fill out immigration forms for immigrant parents or students, even if you have become close to a family. Immigration applications are far more complicated than just the questions on the forms themselves. Refer families with immigration issues or questions to ILAP (our services are free or low-fee depending on income). If a family is above ILAPs income guidelines, we can refer to competent attorneys. See for our intake If a family wants you to talk to us about them, have them sign a release giving us permission to talk with you about them. We will need you to fax this to us for our records.

23 23 CONTACT with any questions about immigration or related issues ILAP 309 Cumberland Avenue, Suite 201 PO Box 17917, Portland, ME or Intake of new clients: Fridays 9:00-1:00, In-person or by phone.

24 24 Thank you

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