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2017-09-22 / Front Page

Looking for a way to stay

DACA rollback worries DREAMers and some businesses, but it could spur immigration reform legislation
BY R. BROCK PRONKO
Regional Business Analyst


Stolinas Stolinas For a president who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform and who spent the past nine months rescinding many of his predecessor’s executive orders and policies, the announcement on September 5 that the Trump administration was ending President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation who came to the U.S. as children, should come as no surprise. However, President Trump attached a six- month delay to the rollback, and tweeted: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”

These actions signaled to Congressional Democrats that Trump was open to a deal on DACA. During a dinner at the White House, the Trump discussed DACA and other legislative issues with Senate Minority Leader “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The president was emphatic that strong border security be included in immigration reform legislation, but that the “border wall” would be dealt with separately.

While the meeting gave DACA recipients and businesses with valuable DACA employees some hope, immigration lawyers in our region have been receiving questions about the details of the rollback, and inquiring about other paths to citizenship for DACA recipients should Congress fail to provide one by next March.

Pennsylvania Business Central spoke with Helen Stolinas, immigration law attorney at The Mazza Law Group in State College, about the DACA rollback.

PBC: DACA status must be renewed every two years. Given the six-month delay, will so-called DREAMers who are up for renewal during that time be eligible to re-apply and renew their work permits?

Stolinas: We are continually getting memorandums from the American Immigration Lawyers Association about the new policy and, from what I’ve learned, it appears that applications for DACA that were properly filed on or before September 5, as well as renewals that were filed up to that date, will be reviewed on a case by case basis. They could be rejected or renewed, depending if the applicants meet the DACA requirements. If approved, their DACA status will be in place until March 2018.

PBC: With the fate of the DACA program uncertain, some attorneys believe it’s safer for immigrants to remain anonymous than to provide the government with personal information that could later be used to deport them. What are your thoughts on this?

Stolinas: Time will tell how that information is used. Those individuals who applied for DACA did place a lot of trust in our government and our immigration system to not use their information for removal proceedings; however, there is no guarantee their information won’t be used for that purpose. In cases where an individual has obtained a criminal record or has other immigration-related violations, that information certainly could be used. So, we caution our clients that the information they provide on their DACA application can be used against them.

PBC: Have you received inquiries from clients about the DACA reversal?

Stolinas: Not yet, this just happened, but I’m sure I will be hearing from individuals who are concerned about their status and whether there are other avenues of relief they might be eligible for, and we can review those.

We do have a lot of students at Penn State that have benefits under DACA. Penn State works with students to assist them with their immigration status, but we can assist them with more complex immigration issues. Also, some of the faculty at Penn State wish to have family members who are foreign nationals come to the U.S. We often help a lot of individuals that have married U.S. citizens and have families here and would like to adjust their status to become permanent residents.

PBC: DACA recipients were given “advanced parole.” They can travel outside the country and return to the U.S. Has that privilege been revoked?

Stolinas: DACA recipients that were previously granted advanced parole for a given period of time will continue to be able to travel outside the country, but all new applications for advanced parole associated with DACA have been administratively closed.

PBCl: What can DACA enrollees and other undocumented immigrants do during this six-month period to increase their chances of not being deported next year?

Stolinas: They should contact an immigration attorney to review their circumstances and determine if they might qualify for other ways to remain in the country lawfully. For example, an employer may be able to file a petition for a foreign national worker that he feels is critical to his business. There are also programs that allow individuals who invest at least $500,000 to help maintain or create jobs in the U.S. or save failing businesses to obtain citizenship. If foreign funds come into the country to prop up the economy by employing at least 10 workers, that’s another path to a green card and permanent residency.

In addition, there are also family-based forms of relief, so an attorney can go through an individual’s history and family connections, employment, education, etc. and perhaps identify other forms of relief.

PBC: Trump said that President Obama’s DACA executive order was illegal, was it?

Stolinas: The constitutionality of President Obama’s DACA executive order was never legally challenged. There have been legal scholars on both sides of this issue, some have said that the president’s executive power did allow him to enact DACA for the special circumstance of not deporting individuals who came here from a foreign country as children, and who through no fault of their own, have grown up here, have been educated here, have worked here, and many of them have served in our military and gone to college. None of them have a criminal record or are suspected terrorists, otherwise they couldn’t be in this program, so there’s nothing to fear from DACA individuals.

It would have been interesting to see the results of proposed legal challenges to DACA in court, but hopefully, Congress will take up the challenge and provide a suitable form of relief for these individuals, so that they, their families, the military, their colleges, and their employers will no longer be faced with the uncertainty over what’s going to happen to them.

As someone who practices immigration law, I like to assist immigrants who lawfully wish to obtain legal immigration status and businesses to appropriately bring qualified workers to this country to boost our economy, so my hope is that this DACA situation will be fairly and favorably resolved before the March 2018 deadline. .

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