Illegal immigrants herald beginning of program that could delay deportation
August 15, 2012, 8:00 PM
The Plain Dealer
Photo AP. Thousands of young people wait Wednesday in Chicago for help in avoiding deportation through a new federal program.
Norma Gutierrez, 19, of Painesville, is a graduate of Lake Catholic High School who is about to enter Lakeland Community College, where she plans to study psychology. Like any young person, she has hopes and dreams.
She wants a car, a good-paying job and to someday settle down and raise a family. But Gutierrez is an illegal immigrant.
She has no driver’s license; no Social Security number; no bank account and she lives each day in shadowy fear of being arrested and deported back to her native Mexico.
But since June, when President Barack Obama announced a program to allow young illegal immigrants a temporary, two-year reprieve from deportation, Gutierrez’s future seems a little brighter. “As soon as I heard the news I was really excited, I was really happy,” she said in an interview Wednesday, the first day the government was accepting applications for the program.
Across the country, thousands of people lined up in major cities for help filing the necessary paperwork. “I hope this program is just a step to something bigger, more secure,”said Gutierrez. “I want to be someone in life. I want to have a great future. There are many opportunities here, but I can’t take advantage of them because I’m illegal.” Gutierrez, who, with her parents, illegally crossed the border when she was 10, could be the poster child for the Obama program, known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
Illegal immigrants under age 31 who came to the United States before their 16th birthday could be eligible. They must either be in school, have a high school diploma or the equivalent, or have served in the U.S. military. They also must not have been convicted of any serious crime. Advocacy groups estimate more than 1.7 million people could be eligible for the program over the next few years, though there is no estimate of how many will apply or how quickly.
Applicants have to pay $465. In Ohio, it is estimated there are about 70,000 undocumented workers, though, because it’s a highly hidden population, it’s hard to get an accurate number.”
Cleveland immigrationlawyer Richard Herman, who has been conducting workshops nationwide for the program, estimates that 10,000 to 12,000 illegal immigrants in Ohio could be eligible for the two-year reprieve.
“This is a historic moment,” said Herman. “Not so much for Ohio because it’s not such a big immigrant state. But in Texas, California and Florida, people are celebrating in the streets.” In Chicago on Wednesday, 12,000 people, mostly teenagers, showed up at Navy Pier where volunteer lawyers helped with applications, the Chicago Tribune reported. In Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press, hundreds stood in line outside nonprofit offices waiting for filing help.
Herman said he has about 100 clients from throughout Ohio who will be filing within the next couple of days.
Herman said he was planning to mail about 25 applications Wednesday, including Gutierrez’s.
“If we’ve got undocumented kids who want to go to college and develop their talent, we’ve got to tap into that,” said Herman.
For immigrant advocates, the program is just a Band Aid compared to the DREAM Act , supported by Obama, but killed by Congress in 2010. The legislation would have granted legal status to undocumented youth. Obama’s program would give successful applicants work permits, but not legal status or citizenship.
However, thereprieve can be renewed after two years. “In a very real sense it allows a lot of promising youth to step out of the shadows and be able to participate in society, continue with their education and get a driver’s license,” said Cleveland immigration lawyer David Leopold.
“It’s giving these young people who were brought here by their parents a chance to give back to this country. There are a lot of good kids who are going to be helped by this. “And it’s a process that I hope will push Congress to roll up its sleeves and fix the broken immigration system.” Leopold, general counsel to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a national watchdog group promoting fair immigration laws, cautioned that people should beware of fraudulent advocates asking for money to help with applications.
The association is sponsoring a workshop on the program from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday at St. Augustine Tower, 7800 Detroit Ave., in Cleveland. Veronica Dahlberg, director of HOLA — Hispanic Organizations of Lake and Ashtabula counties — echoed Leopold’s caution of frauds. “We’re telling people to take it slow,” she said. “I just want everybody to do this carefully.” She said a lot of people are uncomfortable with some of the questions on the application. Some who haven’t graduated from high school are working on their GEDs to qualify for the program, she said. “That’s a good thing,” said Dahlberg.
“But there are still a lot of question marks. Having said that, we have to go for it because it’s all we’ve got.”
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Richard Herman is a nationally-known immigration attorney with 20+ years of experience representing families and businesses in all aspects of immigration law. Richard was voted for inclusion in the 2015 edition of The Best Lawyers in America© and listed in Super Lawyers© for ten consecutive years, Richard is the founder of the Herman Legal Group, an immigration law firm serving clients in over 12 languages from offices in Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit, whose attorneys have represented diverse clientele, from Fortune 500 companies to undocumented workers, from technology entrepreneurs to NFL teams. He is the co-author of the acclaimed book, Immigrant, Inc. ---Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Richard has appeared FOX News (The O’Reilly Factor), ABC News 20/20, National Public Radio, and has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Inc., PC World, Computerworld, CIO, TechCrunch and InformationWeek.