By Andrew Westney
Law360, Dallas (October 11, 2016, 6:04 PM EDT) — A Texas district judge handed down a 33-month jail sentence Tuesday to the purported chief of a non-federally recognized Native American tribe who pled guilty last year to selling membership in the tribe as part of a scheme to defraud undocumented immigrants.
Humberto Reveles of Waco, Texas, who represented himself to be the chief of the Yamassee Nation, pled guilty in March 2015 to charges of selling membership in the tribe. Maria Isabel Lerma, of Brownsville, Texas, pled guilty in June 2015 in the scheme, in which the pair claimed that tribal identification documents would allow prospective tribe members to live and work in the country legally, despite their undocumented status.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sentenced the 61-year-old Reveles, who formerly lived in Brownsville, to 33 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered Reveles to pay nearly $200,000 to 144 victims of the fraud.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice statement Tuesday, Judge Hanen said when handing down the sentence that the pair’s scheme was as bad as smuggling undocumented immigrants past a checkpoint.
Reveles ran an office and held informational meetings with prospective tribe members from around October 2013 through October 2014, according to a DOJ statement last June. Reveles would hand over tribal naturalization certificates, identification cards and driver’s licenses in exchange for money, and Lerma was hired as a secretary and assisted Reveles with the scheme, the DOJ said at the time.
The certificates and cards used in the plot were sent through the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx and included a U.S. State Department authorization number, according to the DOJ. However, that number was assigned to a document from the state of Georgia and had no connection to the Yamassee Nation, a non-federally recognized tribe based in South Carolina.
Federal prosecutors filed a 12-count indictment in October 2014 alleging that Reveles and Lerma conspired to commit mail fraud and possessed five or more false identification documents. Reveles was also indicted on charges of fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents and for impersonating a diplomat on two occasions.
Reveles must pay victims of the scheme $198,795, starting with a lump sum payment of a little over $6,600, followed by monthly payments in the same amount for 29 months. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service within his first two years of supervised release.
Reveles was permitted to remain out on bond and voluntarily surrender in December.
Lerma’s sentencing was continued Tuesday until Nov. 16.
Representatives for Reveles and Lerma were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Reveles is represented by David Patrick Willis III.
Lerma is represented by Patricia Garza Burruss.
The U.S. is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph T. Leonard.
The case is USA v. Reveles et al., case number 1:14-cr-00865, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
— Editing by Ben Guilfoy.
By Katie Hall – American-Statesman Staff
Updated: 5:17 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 | Posted: 10:36 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, 2016
Under a proposed ordinance, Austin police could tow a vehicle if the driver doesn’t have a valid license.
A commission that advises the Austin City Council is split on the idea.
Austin police officials are seeking to amend city traffic regulations to allow officers to impound a vehicle, without necessarily making an arrest, if the driver is on the road without a license or with a suspended one.
Austin police presented the proposal during the Public Safety Commission’s monthly meeting Monday. The commission’s vote for the proposal was 5-5; since the majority of commissioners didn’t support the measure, the commission will not recommend the Austin City Council to adopt it. However, the City Council will likely still take up the issue in October or November, Austin police Chief of Staff Brian Manley said.
While the scope of the proposed revision is broad, Manley said the Police Department policy would only allow officers to impound a vehicle for one of the following reasons: a person without a driver’s license was involved in a crash; a person without a driver’s license was stopped for a traffic violation and has been convicted of two prior moving violations; or a person without a driver’s license was stopped for a traffic violation and is driving with a license that has been suspended for drug offenses, driving while intoxicated, or for having committed multiple violations.
Even if the driver isn’t the owner, officers would still impound the vehicle, Manley said. However, the law would not apply to people with expired licenses.
“There are a significant number of drivers that are involved in serious-injury and fatality collisions that are either without a license or have had their license suspended,” Manley said. Taking away their vehicles takes away the instrument that causes some of these injuries and deaths, he said.
From 2012 to 2016, an average of 16 percent of people involved in Austin crashes had no license or an invalid license; 19 percent of injury crashes involved a person who met that criteria; and 28 percent of fatalities involved a person who met that criteria, Manley said.
In 2015, Austin police issued 3,896 citations for driving without a valid license, according to the Texas Office of Court Administration.
The measure was recommended earlier this year by Vision Zero, a city task force with the mission of reducing traffic fatalities in Austin.
Commission Vice Chair Daniela Nunez made it clear Monday that she didn’t support the proposal.
“There are many people in our community who are not eligible to get driver’s licenses because of broken federal immigration policy,” Nunez said. “These people still have to drive. They still have to take their kids to school… If something doesn’t warrant arrest, it shouldn’t be worthy of impounding.”
Commission Chair Rebecca Webber, who also voted against the proposal, said she would have liked to know how many of the people without valid licenses involved in crashes last year would have met the criteria for having their car towed under the proposed law. Without that data, Webber said she can’t determine if the law is worth the adversity it would cause people.
“Is this just another hardship on people in a cycle of poverty?” Webber said.
In Austin, tow companies will charge people $218.30 if they pick up their vehicles on the first day, Austin police officials said. It costs an additional $21.65 for every extra day the vehicle is in storage. The vehicle can be auctioned off after 45 days.
Two tow companies that Austin police use, Southside Towing and Austex Towing, said they do not offer payment plans.
Back in February, the Public Safety Commission voted 5-2 in favor of the proposal (three members were absent). Members picked this idea and four others out of 100 recommendations that the Vision Zero task force made.
Austin police used to impound cars after officers stopped a driver with no license or a suspended one, police officials said. However, this measure was ended to keep non-violent offenders out of jail. The new law would allow police to impound cars without arresting the driver.
By Jonathan Tilove – American-Statesman Staff
Gov. Greg Abbott amped up his campaign against so-called sanctuary cities Wednesday, sending a warning letter to all Texas sheriffs that if they don’t fully comply with all federal requests for detaining “criminal immigrants” being held in their jails, he will deny them some criminal justice grant funding under his control.
“I am establishing new standards for Sheriff’s Departments that seek grants from the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD),” Abbott wrote. “Beginning now, all CJD grant awards will require that Sheriff’s Departments fully honor ICE’s detention requests for criminal immigrants. Any applicant that cannot certify that their office will honor all ICE detainers for criminal immigrants will be ineligible for CJD funding. Further, any applicant that certifies full compliance with ICE detainer requests — but subsequently fails to honor an ICE detainer — will be subject to claw-back provisions and must refund the full amount of their CJD grant award.”
The letter places Abbott, a fierce critic of federal incursions on state power, in the novel situation of using his authority to demand that local Texas law enforcement officials discard their discretion in fealty to federal immigration policy, a demand the federal government cannot and doesn’t attempt to enforce on its own.
But, in the hot-button politics of immigration, it allows the governor to take a tough stance that wins headlines and plaudits on Fox News — “good job in Texas, I’ll tell you that,” Sean Hannity said last week — and placates the Republican base, while deflecting calls from some legislators and tea party groups for a special session of the Legislature on sanctuary cities and other efforts designed to crack down on unauthorized immigration.
Abbott has indicated he won’t call a special session, but that sanctuary cities ought to be an issue in legislative campaigns in 2016 and on the docket of the Legislature’s next session in 2017.
“I think more than anything else it’s symbolic politics targeted to the GOP primary base and activists,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. “But it’s also a shot across the bow to sheriffs across the state, putting them on notice that, when in doubt, they are better off abiding by the federal requirements than ignoring them.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can request that local jails hold onto inmates who appear to be in the country illegally beyond their scheduled release date so that ICE agents can pick the person up. However, local law enforcement agencies have decided whether to cooperate with federal authorities at their own discretion.
While some of the grant money in question originates with the federal government, Abbott’s communications director, Matt Hirsch, said the governor’s office believes it has the authority to set conditions on its distribution.
The amount of money potentially at stake isn’t huge. For example, the Travis County sheriff’s office has received $58,000 in grant funds this year that are in the categories that would be at risk if it failed to fully comply with Abbott’s standard.
Jones noted that the cost of detaining the prisoners for additional time is an “unfunded federal mandate” borne by county sheriffs and would likely exceed the amount of grant money at stake. If the grant money were cut off, he said, local sheriffs would have all the less reason to cooperate with detainer requests that cost them a lot of money.
Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton cooperates with ICE detainer requests.
But Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin office of Grassroots Leadership, which backs sanctuary policies, said that could change because the other Democratic candidates seeking to succeed Hamilton have been critical of the sheriff’s approach.
Jones said a potential political showdown between Abbott and largely Democratic Travis County on the issue would in all likelihood suit the governor’s political interests.
As things stand now, Libal said that sanctuary cities per se — referring to communities that outright declare their refusal to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement — don’t exist in Texas, including in Dallas County. There, Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez recently acknowledged she was using some discretion in not detaining some people who had committed minor offenses for an additional 48 hours, which sparked a sharp reaction from the governor and brought his renewed attention to the issue.
“Your refusal to fully participate in a federal law enforcement program intended to keep dangerous criminals off the streets leaves the State no choice but to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our fellow Texans,” Abbott wrote Valdez last week.
Libal said he was disappointed that the governor would want to punish local officials “who are trying to do the right thing.”
By Anjanette Gautier – ¡Ahora Sí!
Until recently, Mexican citizens living abroad had to travel to their original place of birth to obtain a copy of their birth certificate. Since Jan. 15th, however, they only need to go to their nearest Mexican Consulate, either in the United States or any other place in the world
Mariana Posada, spokesperson for the Mexican Consulate in Austin, said the change will save people the hassle and trouble of traveling and will expedite the process of issuing consular identifications, passports and other official documents.
“The timing of this measure is a happy coincidence with the announcement of the executive action by President Obama,” Posada said, referring to the immigration regularization processes that are expected to benefit thousands of Mexican immigrants. The new system requires them to have official identification documents.
“Whoever needs a birth certificate must come in person to the consulate,” Posada said, but applicants don’t need an appointment.
They will need to fill out an application and show a government-issued photo I.D., either by Mexican or the United States. The identification can be a driver’s license, passport, school certificate or military I.D. Each birth certificate copy costs $13 and is available in minutes if their original birth certificate has been digitized in Mexico. Otherwise, the documents are available in 48 hours, Posada said. (By comparison, U.S. citizens wanting official copies of their birth certificates must apply directly to the states where they were born; processing times can take weeks.)
Mexican citizens who wish to obtain or renew their passports or consular identifications, still need to make an appointment through phone service Mexitel, 1-877-639-4835, by visiting the page https://mexitel.sre.gob.mx or by downloading the free application ‘miconsulmex’ at the Apple or Google app stores.
Recent complaints posted on social media about poor customer service by the Mexican Consulate have been addressed, Posada said.
“Those are very valid concerns and we are aware of their complaints. For this reason, we have taken measures to address and fix the problems to the best of our abilities,” Posada said. Starting in February, she said, officials will staff more personnel and will additional appointments available to serve the increase of people visiting the consulate.
On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced protection from deportation for TWO GROUPS
OF UNDOCUMENTED PEOPLE who have been living in the United States since January 1, 2010:
People who came here as children and meet other requirements may qualify for Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
H Parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who meet other requirements may qualify for
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. No one can apply yet. People should be able to apply for Expanded DACA
around February 18, 2015. People should be able to apply for the new DAPA
program around May 19, 2015.
2. Not everyone will qualify. Being the parent of a United States Citizen or
Lawful Permanent Resident child alone is not enough to qualify you for the
DAPA program. Being a childhood arrival is not enough to show that you
qualify for the DACA program. You must meet other requirements.
3. Before you apply for any program, get legal help. Talk to someone
who is qualified to give you legal advice, such as an immigration attorney.
Look on www.ailalawyer.com to find an immigration lawyer near you.
4. Submitting the wrong information can ruin your chances of being
granted Deferred Action. Make sure all the information and documentation
is true and correct. You can start collecting supporting documents now.
5. Don’t get scammed. There are notarios and other unscrupulous people
who are already trying to take advantage of this news. They will make you
promises they can’t deliver on, and could make you a target for deportation.
Go to www.stopnotariofraud.org for more information.