Local immigration attorney, congressman weigh in on new U.S. policy
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Beginning Wednesday, illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children can apply to avoid deportation and receive a work permit.
The new policy is put into place by the Obama Administration, and advocacy group expect it to affect as many as 1.7 million illegal immigrants across the nation.
"You know, the politics of immigration is indecipherable, really," Attorney Robert Divine, a local immigration attorney with Baker Donelson who once ran the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services Department.
"I went to Washington to work for President Bush expecting that I would be helping to implement a legalization process as broad as all of that," he continued, "but, the politics weren't there and they still aren't."
Change comes by way of Executive Order. Starting Wednesday, a certain group of illegal immigrants can apply to stay and work in the United States.
Third District Representative Chuck Fleischmann tells Channel 3, that's not the way the system is supposed to work. "I'm very disappointed. This is the wrong process; the wrong procedure," he said. "It's unfair to the millions of Americans who have played by the rules, who have worked hard, who have become American citizens the right way," Fleischmann tells Channel 3.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals means, for a $465 fee, those who (1) Came or were brought to the U.S. when they were under 16, (2) Have been here at least five years, (3) Are in school, graduated or were honorably discharged from the military, (4) Have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, and (5) Are age 30 or younger, can apply to stay.
If accepted, that status would be renewable after two years. "If they get a criminal conviction next year, they may not get extended," Divine added. "They may get actually removed pretty quickly."
Asked how a Republican plan would differ, Congressman Fleischmann said, "The first plan is to follow the law on the books and secure the border."
"The states have been burdened because the federal government has been unable to accomplish its task and we need to get that done, but the process needs to be proper," Fleischmann added. "It's unfair to the millions of Americans who have played by the rules, who have worked hard, who have become American citizens the right way."
Divine says there is a point to be made about the process that got us to this point, but there has long been consensus on determining a future for this particular group of people. "I personally think that this group is, for the most part, already employed somewhere. And I don't think you're gonna see some big blip in the unemployment rate," said Divine. "I think the biggest result is gonna be that these people are gonna get on the payroll, not the welfare roll."
Immigration authorities around the country are bracing for millions of applications beginning Wednesday. "I think once we realize that we all know somebody who got this deferred action, who got out of limbo because of this effort, and they're not scary, and they didn't take my job, I think we'll realize this was a good thing," Divine said. "Whether it sparks a larger conversation about other people who are here unlawfully, their parents, people who were already 31, we don't know."
Locally, La Paz is planning a community forum to help answer any questions about the process for August 23, at East Side Elementary School.
Beginning at 6:30 that night, lawyers will be on hand to help families with the application process. Click here for more information.
Click here to download the application.
"Not everybody needs a lawyer," said Robert Divine. "If they have a really simple clear-cut case, very well-documented presences in the United States for the period of time they need to show and how they got here and when they got here, they may be able to file on their own."
BUT, an illegal immigrant who wants to file should get a lawyer if they:
-lack proof about where they have been
-have been absent from the country for some periods of time
-might be "in-status" right now or might have been in June (when Executive Order was announced)
-have a criminal history
-have been removed from the country before
-think they might be suspected of being a gang member
"Every time a program like this comes along, some people come out and try to take advantage of people that don't understand the rules," Divine explained.
For example, "NOTARIO" in some Spanish speaking countries is kind of a "Super Lawyer," an attorney with special credentials. In America it is simply a Notary Public. This is used to bilk some people out of money when a Notary is not really what they need.
Divine said it's best to seek out a practiced immigration lawyer. Many are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.