Undocumented immigrants confront author of strict immigration laws

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
Bob Miller/for NBC News

Isela Meraz and Fernando Lopez lead a group of undocumented Hispanics in protest against anti-immigration laws during a briefing on the civil rights effects of state immigration law held by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Birmingham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Protesters opposed to strict state-level immigration laws confronted one of the key writers of such legislation as he testified at a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights hearing here on Friday.

Holding up small banners with the words “undocumented” on them, four self-proclaimed undocumented immigrants stood up one at a time to denounce the laws, interrupting the testimony being given by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped author the measures in Alabama and Arizona.

Kobach, who advised those states before being elected to statewide office in Kansas, and others were invited to speak about the impact of such laws by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent commission of the federal government.

But the session was interrupted by protests.

“I have received a lot of discrimination. I am Maria Huerta, undocumented and without fear. I have no fear! You have to respect our rights. They are civil rights,” the 65-year-old woman, originally from Mexico, cried out just before throwing the hearing agenda on the floor. “I leave it there. Keep it. You don’t know how to respect human suffering.”

Huerta is among a group of undocumented immigrants traveling across the country in a caravan to highlight their situation and those of others still living in the shadows. Before landing in Alabama, the ragtag caravan made stops in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Their ultimate goal is the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where they intend to press their concerns.

Moments before Huerta spoke, another group of five women stood up and turned their backs on the commission as Kobach began his testimony. They wore shirts that spelled out “stop hate.”

Bob Miller / for NBC News

Secretary of State Kris Kobach of Kansas addresses the commission during a briefing on civil rights effects of state immigration laws held by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Birmingham, Alabama on August 17, 2012.

Emotions ran high later when protesters called Kobach, a “liar,” with Mayra Rangle, 32, telling commissioners: “It’s a shame you invited him and him,” as she pointed to those invited to speak.

After the hearing, Kobach said the protesters had the right to voice their opinions, but the interruptions were disrespectful.

“It’s inherently rude and it disrespects the American process of deliberation and careful policy making,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate when one side in a debate results to personal insults instead of bringing information and making a coherent point.”

When asked why he didn’t respond to them when challenged, he said: “I was there to respond to the panel not the protesters.”

During the protest, the civil rights commissioners argued about the presence of the demonstrators, with Commissioner Todd Gaziano, a Heritage Foundation fellow, denouncing the lack of security and Commissioner Michael Yaki, of Michael Yaki Consulting, noting the demonstrators were acting in the form of non-violent protest.

Bob Miller/for NBC News

Civil Rights commissioner Michael Yaki addresses a crowd of mostly undocumented immigrants in downtown Birmingham, Ala.

Gerardo Torres, 41, a Mexican who lives in Phoenix, said after the hearing that those who wrote the immigration laws were out of touch.

“I don’t think they have ever been in contact with regular people,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think they just go back to their gated community. … They are not in touch with reality.”

Benefits of Deferred Action – Thoughts from the week of August 15, 2012

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

On the afternoon of June 15, 2012, we had heard a very exciting announcement. On June 16, 2012, I had my 31st birthday which is great because that is the age cut off for deferred action so I can remember that date/age easily.  We then tried to get ready for USCIS’s program, 60 days later. We started pre-screening potential clients and telling them to start collecting documents to prove entry, continuous residence, no criminal history, etc.

Now that the forms were provided on August 14th and the program started on Wednesday, August 15, 2012, the firm has been very busy, like most other immigration firms.  But what I am the most excited about, is that often in these consultations, I find that people qualify for consular processing/waivers and would benefit from the provisional waiver rule which has been promised to be available by the end of 2012 or qualify for marriage-based adjustment and could have their green card in about 3 months if they just applied in country.

I explain to potential clients that Deferred Action is NOT a legal status and should not be PLAN A for a path to legal permanent residency or citizenship. In fact, it isn’t guaranteed and if they obtain it, it is only good for 2 years. It reminds me a lot of Temporary Protected Status, no legal status but work authorization and renewed every few years.

After lots of consultations this week, I am most grateful because it is making people really think about their status and options and hopefully to talk to a qualifed immigration attorney about their case in detail.

We are holding Skype and phone consultations every day of the week right now from 7am-1pm CST. We will have in person consultations starting September 10th, most M-F 9am-5pm.  Before a consultation, a potential client schedules a time, pays the $50 fee online, completes our Deferred Action intake form on our Consultation page, and then faxes or emails any criminal record or key document to their case in advance so I can review it in conjunction with their intake form answers and the consultation.

If a potential client wants to hire us, we send a contract via email for their review with payment information and then when we receive the payment and signed contract, we send the client a list of documents and questionnaire.

We are grateful that the estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million people in the US may qualify for work authorization and peace of mind from immigration detention.  We do hope that people take this time to address what many are afraid to talk or think about, their immigration status.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Ruby L. Powers

Houston Immigration Attorney

Early filing for Obama’s deferred action program smart, but filing correctly is smarter Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/early-filing-obama-deferred-action-program-smart-filing-correctly-smarter-article-1.1135980#ixzz23c4DWUiM

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/early-filing-obama-deferred-action-program-smart-filing-correctly-smarter-article-1.1135980?pgno=1#ixzz23c4ToZfG

The Obama deferred action program for undocumented youth is on. Some Dreamers want to submit their applications as soon as possible. Filing early makes sense, but it’s better to do it right than to file it early. Friday, I’ll provide more information about the process. Meanwhile, you can get more information at uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.

If you qualify for what U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services calls Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, get to work on your application. Don’t miss out on getting two-years legal status and employment authorization.

Q. I am a U.S. citizen, but my fiancé is undocumented. He came here illegally as a child. Should he apply for the Obama deferred action program? My fiancé and I are planning to get married soon. We want to get him his green card, but meanwhile we need your advice about whether he should try to get deferred action.

Orem, Utah

A. Your fiancé should get deferred action status. Doing so could make it easier for him to get permanent residence.

First, with deferred action, hell get employment authorization. If he starts working, that may help you prove that he won’t become a “public charge,” a person who needs government cash assistance.

More important, if your fiancé can get USCIS travel permission, called “advanced parole,” he will then qualify to adjust status — to interview for permanent residence in the United States. USCIS says that individuals with deferred action status can get advance parole only for humanitarian, business or educational reasons. It’s too early to tell how strict USCIS will be in applying these rules.

Finally, by working with USCIS permission, your fiancé will increase his ties to the United States. That will help if he needs to travel abroad to get him an immigrant visa. Since he has been here so long unlawfully, he’ll need a USCIS waiver, a form of forgiveness, once he leaves the United States without advanced parole. President Obama has promised that spouses of U.S. citizens needing an “unlawful presence” waiver will be able to apply for that waiver before leaving the United States. That process should be in place by the end of this year. By working, your fiancé’s improves his chances to get the waiver.

Q. Do high school students who have yet to receive their diploma qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals? These students meet all other DACA requirements.

Name withheld, Gilroy, Calif.

A. Yes, though they must be at least age 15 to apply. If the students are not yet age 15, they may apply once they reach that age. An exception is for young people already in removal (deportation) proceedings. They qualify for deferred action before turning 15.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/early-filing-obama-deferred-action-program-smart-filing-correctly-smarter-article-1.1135980#ixzz23c4McA3v

Chasing a ‘dream’: Immigrant youth seek legal status

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment


By Miranda Leitsinger, NBC News

Yelky Perez knows exactly where she will be at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday: On the government’s immigration services website, scouring for the application that could let her pursue her dream career as a surgeon and stay in the U.S. legally.

Perez, who said she illegally entered the country from the Dominican Republic at 13 to reunite with her family, will join hundreds of thousands of other young adults as the Obama administration launches an initiative that will prevent deportation temporarily for those who qualify. She has already collected the documents she believes she’ll need, including debit card receipts to show she was in the U.S. the day that the policy was announced, which is one of the requirements.

“I want to make sure that my application is one of the first ones going in because, as they said, the applications will be processed in the order they are received … I want to make sure mine is one of the first ones that gets there,” said Perez, 20, with an enthusiastic chuckle.

The “deferred action” program, outlined in a government memorandum in mid-June, will give certain young illegal immigrants two-year work permits, allowing them to stay in the country and emerge from the underground economy. Some 937,000 people brought here as children might immediately qualify, according to a recent study. Another 426,000 aged 15 and under could, too, if the program remains in place. The states with the highest number of likely recipients are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer responds to President Obama’s immigration policy announcement in mid-June.

The initiative appears to be a bid on President Obama’s part to provide temporary relief to those eligible for the Dream Act, legislation aimed at those brought to the U.S. as children that has stalled in Congress. The program has been cautiously welcomed by advocates as a first step toward immigration reform, but criticized by others as an amnesty that could become permanent.

“This is the kind of thing Congress is supposed to decide and yet what the White House has done is unilaterally implement its own amnesty program,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank. “The idea that this is just a temporary halt in deportation and what not is complete baloney. These people are all going to get employment authorization documents, work cards and social security numbers, and supposedly it’s for only two years.

“… we have other temporary immigration programs and what we’ve learned from that is there is nothing as permanent as a temporary immigrant. Anybody who actually gets this program is here for good, period,” he added.

Immigrants must meet certain criteria to qualify, including: arrival in the U.S. under the age of 16; no older than 30 today and no younger than 15; currently enrolled in school, graduated high school or served in the military; have been in the country for five continuous years; and have a clean criminal record.

Courtesy of Yelky Perez.

Yelky Perez, 20, in Albany for an immigration reform rally in 2012.

At the New York Immigration Coalition, advocates have been deluged with calls from those who could potentially qualify.

“We do see this policy as a substantial step forward towards immigration reform,” said Jacqueline Esposito, the coalition’s director of immigration advocacy. “We recognize that this particular relief is limited in nature, but we believe it’s going to build momentum to more lasting reform.”

Obama administration won’t seek deportation of young illegal immigrants
Skepticism, joy among illegal immigrants over Obama decision
First Read: Obama leads big with Latinos
Immigration order poses dilemma for those eligible 

Perez, a college graduate who earns $300 for her 45-hour work weeks at an under-the-table job at a publishing firm helping to edit immigration books, hopes to resume her studies to become a surgeon. She dropped her pre-med program in college because she decided it would be too hard to practice medicine in the U.S. because of her status.

“I actually was ready to kind of just plan my life with my $300 pay a week,” she said. But the promise of deferred action has her mulling a year-long course to prepare for medical school. “Maybe I can … become a surgeon, like I wanted to do originally.”

There are risks with coming forward, however, Esposito said.

President Obama announces in mid-June that the Department of Homeland Security will no longer seek the deportation of many young illegal immigrants.

“We do advise people that deferred action is temporary … the program could be ended at any time,” she said. “It’s not a legislative solution. It’s simply an administrative reform.”

Perez speaks confidently about what she has accomplished since she coming here in 2005: She quickly learned English in New York after her arrival and graduated as valedictorian of her high school class at 16; she completed college with the highest GPA in her major of public affairs (her studies were paid for by a benefactor).

But there have also been lows, too. Though Perez said she knew she was coming illegally, she had no idea the challenges she would face: an inability to pick up mail in one’s name at the post office, how hard it can be to get paid a decent wage, and the difficulty of obtaining a government-issued identification.

She also can’t go to the Dominican Republic to see her extended family, and the fear of deportation looms constantly.

“It’s been quite an experience. I did sometimes kind of feel like, ‘Oh, why me?’ and I would get depressed and cry. I used to cry a lot. Not anymore,” she said. “I kind of really have turned to see things a little more in a positive lens … I decided I needed to stop thinking about it, just look at the things I was able to do within my limitations, which were plenty.”

Perez’s father, Julio, said he brought Yelky and her brother, now 23, to the U.S. with hopes of a better education and a better future (his oldest daughter came on a humanitarian visa; his common-law wife is also from the Dominican Republic and doesn’t have legal status, Perez said).

“I never thought it would take so long for her and that it would be such a difficult path,” said Julio, who only wanted to be identified by his first name since he is in the country illegally and fears repercussions.

He alerted his daughter to the administration’s announcement of the program on June 15.

“I think it was one of the happiest days of my life. I can die tomorrow and I can die satisfied” knowing that my decision to bring her here won’t prevent her from achieving her dreams, he said, speaking in Spanish. “For me, Yelky is everything. It was very exciting when I got that news, a joy overtook me.”

Esposito, of the immigration coalition, said that since the program doesn’t confer lawful immigration status, successful applicants can’t help their parents with their own status, making the new policy “bittersweet.”

Perez, who has married a U.S. citizen (though that won’t help her immigration status for the time being, since she entered the country illegally), said she is concerned about exposing her parents to immigration authorities in the application process.

“It’s very unclear and I am a little skeptical,” she said of the potential outing of her parents. “But I just don’t have much of a choice … this is an opportunity that I have to take advantage of now.”

NBC News’ Natalia Jimenez contributed to this report.

The Top 8 Items from Today’s DHS Announcement on Deferred Action

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment
The Top 8 Items from Today’s DHS Announcement on Deferred Action 

    1. In a change from the prior announcement, people currently in removal proceedings will use the USCIS process when it is implemented on August 15, 2012, rather than go through ICE. Only individuals in detention will go through ICE to make a deferred action request.

    1. Information provided as part of the deferred action request process is protected from disclosure to ICE or CBP for purposes of removal proceedings unless the requestor meets the criteria of USCIS’ November 2011 NTA memo.

    1. If a departure from the U.S. was due to removal, voluntary departure, etc., the absence was not brief, casual and innocent and would interupt the continuous residence that is required since June 15, 2007. Short absences before August 15, 2012, reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose of the trip, would not be interuptive.

    1. Only people who are currently not in status and were not in any lawful status on June 15, 2012 are eligible.

    1. A “significant misdemeanor” is one for which the individual was sentenced to more than 90 days, or a conviction for domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, firearm violation, drug distribution or trafficking (but not possession), or DUI, regardless of the sentence.

    1. Minor traffic offenses, such as driving without a license, are not considered misdemeanors that count toward the “3 or more” standard.

    1. The Form I-765 will be required, along with another form that will be made available on August 14 or 15. Total fees, including biometics, will be $465. Fee waivers will not be available, but fee exemptions will be permitted in very limited circumstances, and must be requested and approved before submitting a deferred action application without a fee.

  1. Whether a person has reached age 15, and whether the requestor meets the education requirements, will be determined as of the date the request for deferred action is filed, NOT the June 15, 2012 date.

For complete coverage of the latest immigration updates, please visit AILA InfoNet’s Recent Postings page.