- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014
Tenn. court decision could be blow to immigrants

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a decision Friday that could be a blow to immigrants who were never told that they can still be deported for a crime that has been wiped off their criminal record.

The case exposes a rift between the federal law and state law when it comes to criminal records that have been expunged, immigrant advocates said.

Friday’s unanimous state Supreme Court decision resulted in the court’s refusal to re-open up a case involving an immigrant who pleaded guilty to patronizing a prostitute in exchange for getting his conviction for the misdemeanor expunged.

The decision closes an avenue for immigrants to be able to correct bad legal advice they’ve gotten in the past, said Tricia Herzfeld, an attorney with the Ozment Law firm, which filed a brief in the case on behalf of the National Immigration Project.

An immigrant can have a criminal record expunged by a Tennessee court, but that conviction can still be used later by a federal court considering whether to deport someone, Herzfeld said. Many criminal defense attorneys are ignorant of immigration law and are failing to warn their clients that if they plead guilty to a crime and that conviction is later expunged it can still be used against them for immigration purposes.

Most people who have their records wiped clean are generally convicted of petty crimes, such as vandalism and theft, but those could have disastrous consequences later in an immigration court, Herzfeld said.

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Haslam free tuition plan garners praise, concern

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature proposal this year, a program that would cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate, appears on track to pass as lawmakers enter the waning days of the legislative session. The details, however - including how to pay for this perk in the years to come - remain scattered.

Called “Tennessee Promise,” the plan is a cornerstone of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to improve the state’s graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.

After graduation, students who choose to attend a four-year school will be able to do so as juniors. Higher education experts say Florida, Mississippi and Oregon are considering creating similar programs.

Haslam wants to pay for the program, expected to cost about $34 million annually, by using $300 million in excess lottery reserve funds and join it with a $47 million endowment. The state has about $400 million in reserves.

His fellow Republicans who control both chambers say they expect the proposal to pass, after some adjustments. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, didn’t specify what changes would be made to the legislation, but he did say lawmakers want to make sure there’s adequate funding for it.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said lawmakers and the governor’s administration are aiming for the same goal, and that’s “having more of our young people prepared for the workforce.”

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Police help family make it to citizenship ceremony

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - After nine years Svetlana Yatsky’s application for citizenship had finally been approved. She was on her way to Chattanooga’s federal building Thursday morning to swear an oath of allegiance when the family’s minivan broke down on the interstate at about 1 a.m.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/OhviAm) the family called 911. Police could not jump start the vehicle, so Sgt. Brian Moseley put the family in his patrol car. He drove them first to the federal building, so they would know where it was, and then to their hotel.

On the way downtown, Yatsky’s husband, Yaroslav Yatsky said the police response would have been different in his home county of Ukraine or his wife’s birthplace of Russia.

“In Russia the police would probably be the first ones to rob us,” Yaroslav Yatsky said he told Moseley.

Thanks to Moseley, Svetlana Yatsky made it to the ceremony Thursday morning.

Yaroslav Yatsky snapped photographs with his smartphone as U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier told the crowd that Svetlana Yatsky and the 48 other new citizens were continuing a tradition of democracy envisioned by the nation’s founders. In Yaroslav Yatsky lap, the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Anna, clutched a Teddy bear that Moseley had pulled from the trunk of his patrol car and given to her that morning.

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UT needs volunteers to analyze howls

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The University of Tennessee needs volunteers to listen to howling dogs, wolves and coyotes.

Researcher Arik Kershenbaum told the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1pZPEKy) that canid species have different ways of communicating, despite being closely related. Volunteers are needed to help differentiate these howls, and it can all be done on a home computer.

Volunteers will log into howlcoder.appspot.com and follow the links. The website includes an in-depth tutorial.

Volunteers also are needed to submit recordings domestic dogs howling, which can be done on the same website.

Analyzing the thousands of howls is time-consuming. But the Canid Howl Project aims to get hundreds of volunteer scientists to help out. Kershenbaum says having many people involved not only saves time, but it should limit the impact of mistakes.

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Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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