Published: January 5, 2015
With the roll out of the new Obama Executive Action immigration initiative nearing, I share the following reflections and warnings with the goal of informing and empowering the unsuspecting prospective applicant. These are based on 20+ years practicing exclusively in the area of immigration law and having seen numerous new immigration laws and programs implemented during this time.
The primary audience for news in the realm of immigration benefits for the undocumented is scared, vulnerable and desperate. Scared of being undocumented and its consequences. Vulnerable to deceit and ill intentioned predators purporting to provide reliable counsel. Desperate for a solution to their immigration problem and a way not to be scared, vulnerable, desperate and undocumented.
With the implementation of any new program offering benefits to undocumented immigrants, come the pseudo attorneys, “consultants”, thieves and charlatans looking to take advantage, and more specifically the money, of an unsuspecting undocumented public. For a large or small fee, these predators will offer the undocumented customer some sort of service purportedly toward obtaining the new immigration benefit. As non-attorneys, they have nothing to lose in terms of a license or profession. They have no fiduciary duty to their customer. So, in all, the only thing this demographic of thieves have to fear is the rare species of customer who will complain to authorities after being taken.
For the undocumented immigrant, there is more than just money on the line. For example, with the wrong guidance, or ill-conceived plan, an ineligible applicant who unwisely proceeds with a filing may find themselves in a much worse legal position than when they started. This is not to say that a reputable not for profit organization providing bona fide, free legal services could not offer honest and reliable counsel in this area. The same goes for a private, fee-based attorney with a solid reputation and significant experience in immigration law. For certain, such services are available and should be relied upon, but again as long as the organization or attorney is reputable and again, with experience in the realm of immigration law. Thorough online searches can reveal much about a not for profit organization’s or attorney’s reputation. Further, the status of an attorney’s professional license can be researched via a state’s attorney licensing agency website, such as Illinois’ Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (iardc.org).
It is expected that the new Obama Executive Order on immigration will be implemented sometime in the coming month or two. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security reportedly has hired 1000 new employees in recent weeks, with this corps of officials being assigned to a new operational center in downtown Virginia and undergoing training.
No, it is not too soon to start preparing, assuming you are proceeding based on accurate information and an honest assessment of your legal eligibility. Of course, we have to also wait and see what becomes of certain Republican efforts to put a halt to this program, although it is unlikely any such judicial or legislative challenges will succeed.
As far as benefits for the undocumented under the new Executive Order, the following is a summary of the program highlights:
— An undocumented individual who: A) arrived in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2010, B) resided in the U.S. continuously through November 20, 2014, C) paid taxes on income earned, D) has not been convicted of any significant criminal offense AND E) is the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident will qualify for Deferred Action status and a 3 year Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”). Individuals facing removal proceedings, or an order of removal, will be eligible to apply under this new program, put a halt to removal proceedings, and remain in the U.S. — Additionally, the pool of eligible applicants under the 2012 Executive Order allowing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) will be expanded. DACA is the initiative benefiting individuals arriving in the U.S. while under the age of 16, and allowing for Deferred Action status and issuance of an EAD for individuals who have graduated, or enrolled are in high school (or certain vocational programs, or have obtained a GED) and have, at worst, only minor criminal records. Under the new Executive Order, the date by which applicants must have arrived here (and prior to reaching 16) will be January 1, 2010. Further, applicants will be required to document continuous residence from that date and up to the present. Lastly, the previous age limit of 31 has been eliminated, and applicants who are older than 31 years will be eligible to apply.
Updates and developments on the implementation of this new program will continue to be featured in this column as news becomes available.
PUBLISHED January 5, 2015– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2015, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois