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Adams: Relief for immigrant 'Dreamers' soon to be a reality

July 4, 2012
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

By Angela D. Adams

angela adams Adams

Just minutes before attending my first session of the second day of the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in Nashville, Tenn., I began to receive a flood of emails and tweets on my phone about an announcement which would completely change the lives of an estimated 1.4 million immigrant youth, commonly called “Dreamers,” across the country and between 21,000 and 29,000 immigrant youth in Indiana. As I stood in the coffee line, I wondered, “Is this really happening? Is this a joke? Am I dreaming?”

It was not a dream. Tears began to well up as I thought of all of the kids I have worked with in the last 15 years who would possibly benefit from this news. These are kids who were brought to the U.S. at a very young age through no fault of their own and have no other way to fix their status. They are Americans in every way except they are undocumented.

Along with 3,000 other immigration attorneys, I witnessed a live announcement that I and others have been anticipating for so long. The crowd smiled, cried, cheered and stood in disbelief as we listened and watched the president’s speech on three big screens. During commercial breaks we received briefings from AILA national staff. While the previous day had been spent largely criticizing the Obama administration for a lack of action in the area of immigration, Friday morning brought a complete game changer followed by a sudden change of heart. I will forever remember that as one of the top 10 coolest moments in my life.

Within the executive authority of the president, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a memorandum dated June 15, 2012, announcing that it would begin exercising prosecutorial discretion by allowing certain immigrant youth to apply for “deferred action.” Deferred action is a discretionary act of administrative convenience to the government which gives some cases lower priority. In an effort to clarify enforcement priorities, the Department of Homeland Security has decided not to initiate removal proceedings against those who meet the following five criteria for deferred action: (1) Entered the U.S. prior to the age of 16; (2) Continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years immediately preceding and have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012; (3) Currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school or have obtained a GED; (4) Not have a conviction for a felony offense, a substantial misdemeanor offense or multiple misdemeanor offenses; and (5) Not above the age of 30.

Individuals who qualify for deferred action will be eligible to apply for employment authorization for a period of two years, subject to renewal. Employment authorization allows one to also apply for a Social Security number and state identification card and/or driver’s license. In addition, deferred action may open the door for students to be eligible to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Most importantly, deferred action will serve to protect qualifying individuals from deportation or removal.

Deferred action is not an amnesty or immunity. It does not lead to lawful permanent residency or U.S. citizenship. It does not permit one to apply for family members. Those who qualify are not able to vote and are still subject to removal if they commit certain removable offenses.

The process to apply for deferred action is still unknown and many details are yet to be determined. DHS has been instructed to issue further guidance and clarification on the requirements and details of the application process, form, filing fee, etc., in 60 days. Unfortunately, unscrupulous notarios and immigration consultants are already coming out of the woodwork to sell misinformation to the public. Individuals who believe they may be eligible should be advised to seek legal advice from a competent immigration attorney. In addition, individuals who do not qualify should not apply as this could open them up to serious consequences, including the possibility of being placed in removal proceedings.

One cannot help but appreciate the fascinating politics and ingenious timing of this executive directive. For starters, the announcement was made on the 30th anniversary of the seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), in which the court held that undocumented school-age children could not be denied free access to public education. It was also the first anniversary of the president’s memorandum on prosecutorial discretion, which critics suggest did not go over as well as planned. Also not by coincidence, the annual AILA conference provided 3,000 messengers who were perfectly poised to positively spread the word. Republican leaders had already announced their own version and support of the DREAM Act, and this further forced their hand.

Undoubtedly and obviously rallying for the Latino vote, both parties are now forced to take a serious look at immigration reform as the result of this announcement. This memo, followed by a recent and historic U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona law, Arizona v. U.S., 567 U.S. ___ (2012), have started the snowball rolling toward comprehensive immigration reform just in time for the next election. In fact, the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to strike down major parts of Arizona’s immigration law suggests that the president acted within his executive power. The opinion emphasized the “broad discretion” of the federal government to set priorities in choosing which immigrants to deport. Even Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent said the executive branch has supremacy over immigration.

The battle has only just begun. The polls are showing that the majority of Americans (64 percent) support this policy of deferred action for Dreamers. Sometimes the political thing to do also happens to be the right thing to do. Much more than a political move, it appears that the president’s directive is slowly nudging the immigration conversation back to the middle — where it belongs. The challenge will continue to be getting Congress to face the music, have a rational debate on immigration reform and pass a long-term solution.•

__________

Angela D. Adams is an attorney and director with the law firm of Lewis & Kappes P.C. concentrating on immigration matters. She is board president of the Immigrant Welcome Center and vice chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Indiana Chapter, and she has served as an education consultant for the Indiana Department of Education, division of language, minority and migrant programs. She is co-founder of META: Mapping Education Towards Achievement, a post-secondary awareness seminar for Hispanic students. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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