Immigration attorney explains executive action |

Immigration attorney explains executive action

Immigration attorney Jennifer Smith
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

Even before details are made public on new programs created by President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Colorado attorneys have moved to protect immigrants.

The programs, which expand provisional waivers and halt deportation risk for some children and parents, are still pending implementation, leaving a lot of room for misinformation.

“We don’t know anything new yet,” immigration attorney Jennifer Smith told a sizable crowd Thursday evening at the Glenwood Springs Library. “Immigration law is crazy, it’s very complicated, and it really is dependent on each individual circumstance.”

For that reason, Smith encouraged those present to consult an attorney before filing an application. She emphasized that only licensed attorneys or organizations accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals are allowed to help with the process in Colorado — a move lawyers supported.

“We went to them saying, ‘You won’t believe what people are doing to immigrants. Someone needs to protect them. They are taking money, they are making promises, they are taking risks,’” Smith said.

The system is full of pitfalls even with competent advice.

On the bright side, when all of Obama’s orders are implemented, children who entered the U.S. before they were 16, have lived here since 2010, have no significant criminal history, and are attending or graduated from high school or a GED program, will be eligible for a three-year work permit. So will parents who have lived in the U.S. since 2010 and have a child who is a citizen.

But there’s a flip side. The orders come with new enforcement priorities. People deemed a threat to national security, suspected gang participants, and those with significant criminal history or recent deportation orders are all subject to deportation.

Smith urged anyone who thought they might be a priority not to apply.

“There’s some risk with these deferred action programs, because you are announcing yourself as being in the U.S. without legal status and letting the government decide if you get to stay temporarily or not,” she said.

She also encouraged anyone with pending criminal cases not to plead guilty without consulting an immigration attorney, and urged caution on social media.

For the rest, the risk is probably worth it.

“Anyone who’s in the U.S. that doesn’t have lawful status can be deported, but in my opinion, the government doesn’t have the money to deport 5 million people at once,” she said. “For those people that don’t have any questions about being an enforcement priority, I would absolutely encourage you to apply.”

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