DREAM Announcement – Don’t Be Fooled

On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it would grant “Deferred Action” for certain people in the United States.

If U.S. Government officials are not in the process of trying to deport you, and if U.S. Government officials have never ordered your deportation in the past, then at this time you are NOT yet eligible to make any applications for anything related to this announcement.

Don’t be fooled by people offering you a green card, work authorization, or any other immigration benefit due to the recent announcement by the U.S. Government!

If the U.S. Government is not trying to deport you at this time, then you will need to wait until government officials create an application process, which will probably be in the month of August 2012.

If U.S. Government officials are in the process of trying to deport you at this time, then you should contact a knowledgeable and ethical immigration lawyer to determine if you might be eligible for the new procedures.

You might be eligible for “Deferred Action” if you meet all of the following:

  • You entered the United States before you turned age 16
  • You are now under age 31
  • You have lived in the United States for at least 5 years as of June 15, 2012
  • You are enrolled in school now, OR you graduated from high school, OR you have a GED, OR you have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces
  • You have not been convicted of a felony, you have not been convicted of a “significant” misdemeanor, and you have not been convicted of more than 3 misdemeanors
  • You do not pose a threat to national security of public safety

You should speak with a knowledgeable and ethical immigration lawyer about your own particular immigration matter.

U.S. announces Deferred Action for some DREAMers

From the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.

Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.

While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website (at www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (at www.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (at www.dhs.gov). Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

Call for Obama to improve the immigration system

The New York Times has called for President Obama to use his powers as President to fix some of the most pressing problems in the immigration system.  Among the issues that President Obama could address are the following:

  • End the “Secure Communities” program, which many law enforcement officials have criticized.  The program was aimed at removing dangerous criminals from the United States, but appears to be used instead to remove many who have clean records.
  • Grant relief from deportation for those individuals who would qualify under the DREAM Act.
  • Allow immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens to become lawful permanent residents without having to leave the United States.

Please click here to read the New York Times editorial.

Eloquent commentary on the benefits of the DREAM Act

Emily Rosenbaum has written a thoughtful piece about the DREAM Act at the Columbia University Teachers College website.

Ms. Rosenbaum carefully reviews arguments for and against the legislation, taking into consideration a variety of issues, including, perhaps most importantly, the compelling need of undocumented immigrants to be adequately educated so that they may contribute to our nation.

Ms. Rosenbaum’s commentary is available here.

Former USCIS official criticizes Obama Administration and Congress

Roxana Bacon, a former top counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), sharply criticized the Obama Administration and Congress for failing to act on immigration reform measures while at the same time engaging in harsh enforcement of current immigration laws.

In a recent article published in an Arizona law journal, Bacon stated, referring to the nation’s capitol, “I know that D.C.’s collective ostriching is not a viable strategy. . . . The reasons — demographic, national security and economic — are all around us.”

“We need visionary thinking and incisive analysis grounded on economic truths to create the functioning immigration policy the nation needs,” Bacon wrote. “None of this is likely to come from this Congress, or from this Administration.”

Bacon criticized the enforcement of immigration laws against certain people brought into the United States illegally when they were children, through no fault of their own.  “Punishing them is like jailing a one-year-old for not wearing a seat belt,” Bacon wrote.  Referring to the failed effort in Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a proposal to create a path to legalization for these young people, Bacon stated, “Even the most reactive voices acknowledge that the Dream Act kids cannot all be deported; rather, almost all will stay here.  The only issue is whether we set them up for failure or maximize their contribution.  Remarkably, we opted for failure.”

To read Roxana Bacon’s complete article, please click here.

New York Times profiles DREAM Act Advocate

The New York Times has published a compelling profile of Isabel Castillo, a 26-year-old woman who was brought to the United States illegally when she was 6 years old.

Ms. Castillo graduated from college with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  Despite her talents, achievements, and her 20 years in the United States, Ms. Castillo has no legal status in the United States.

The DREAM Act, a bill that remains pending in Congress, would have given legal status and a chance for citizenship to Ms. Castillo and others like her – people who were brought to the United States illegally at a young age who then attend college or serve in the U.S. military.

You can find the article here.

Congress members discuss immigration reform

High-ranking members of the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, and Senators Lindsey Graham, Charles Schumer, and John McCain, are setting immigration reform legislation as a priority for this session of Congress.

A spokesperson for Senator Durbin recently indicated that Democrats now plan to reintroduce the DREAM Act in this session.

Click here to read an article about the senators’ comments.

Opinion: Pass the DREAM Act

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and undocumented DREAM-Act eligible youth Gaby Pacheco present compelling arguments for the DREAM Act, a bill in Congress that, if passed, would allow certain persons who were brought to the United States unlawfully at a young age to get on a path to legalization if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military.

Trumka and Pacheco outline some of the most important reasons why the DREAM Act should be passed.  Please read their opinion piece here.