Why “DREAMers” need a lawyer’s help.
The need for quality legal counsel is critical for DREAMers seeking deferred action. Someone may appear eligible at first blush. But there could be underlying pitfalls even in seemingly straightforward cases. A lawyer can help potential DREAMers recognize problems lurking below the surface. As with any case that involves applying for immigration relief, a lawyer can perform a thorough assessment and tease out issues that could mean the difference between a dream being realized or shattered.
Deferred action is a type of immigration relief that must be understood. Much confusion already exists as to what “deferred action” is and is not. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance makes clear that it is not a “lawful status,” but what does that mean for a DREAMer? A lawyer can help a potential beneficiary understand the contours of the deferred action initiative and the potential risks in “coming forward.” Yes, deferred action may likely be a beneficial, life-changing option for those eligible, but it is also temporary, discretionary, and subject to change without notice. Lawyers are qualified to empower DREAMers with relevant information so that they can decide if deferred action is right for them.
Immigration law is complex. Immigration law has been described as a “labyrinth almost as impenetrable as the Internal Revenue Code.” The new “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program of deferred action is a welcome step for many eager to live and work with dignity and confidence. But deferred action is still one component of a larger and quite complex statutory, regulatory, and administrative scheme. A potential deferred-action beneficiary—no matter how bright—should not be expected or encouraged to navigate this complex system alone.
A shot at the American Dream, with little room for a second chance. For many potential beneficiaries, deferred action may be the best chance to one day realize the American Dream by providing a way for DREAMers to stay in the country legally while awaiting true immigration reform. Because the applicant essentially has one shot—meaning, no appeal—it is important for a DREAMer to get the application right the first time. Mistakes or misunderstandings regarding the eligibility could lead to denial and the loss of $465 or worse—deportation.
Lawyers can help keep families together. DREAMers are naturally fearful that applying for deferred action could put their undocumented parents and other loved ones at risk. This is an understandable and important concern. A lawyer can help a DREAMer understand any risk to their family members should a DREAMer choose to move forward. Only the potential beneficiary can decide what level of risk she feels comfortable with, but she should start by knowing the real facts and consequences.
DREAMers may have other forms of relief that a lawyer can spot. What if a DREAMer is really a U.S. citizen and doesn’t know it? What if he or she is eligible for another type of relief that could confer lawful status? Unless a DREAMer explores these issues with an experienced immigration lawyer before applying for deferred action, he or she may miss other forms of relief, including a chance at lawful permanent status and/or a pathway to citizenship. Already we’re hearing stories of young persons who sought legal advice for DREAMer deferred action only to learn that they could qualify for other, more permanent immigration relief.
Even lawyers need lawyers, especially for issues that lie beyond a lawyer’s own expertise. Yes, the DREAMer has many motivated, intelligent individuals. But even the smartest among us have a need to turn to lawyers from time-to-time. At this very moment the most experienced immigration lawyers across the country are struggling to understand the parameters of the new deferred-action initiative. DREAMers should have access to help from experienced immigration lawyers in taking this next important step in their lives. The most prudent course for anyone—especially DREAMer youth—is to consult an experienced attorney for guidance.