In Front of the Line
By, Sean Lewis Nashville Immigration Attorney
President Barack Obama gave a town hall speech on his immigration policy in Nashville on December 9, 2014. Aside from being proud to see our friend Renata Soto of Conexion Americas introduce the President and a host of other familiar amigos in the audience, the fact that Nashville was chosen as a new Gateway destination because we are “welcoming” as a community is a source of great pride. Obama affirmed that Nashville is the fastest growing immigrant destination in the United States.
One of the attendees asked the question:
“if I sign up for executive action, will I be putting myself in front of the line for deportation after three years?” This question sums up both the complex nature of executive action as well as highlights the problems an undocumented immigrant faces when trying to decide whether or not to apply for DAPA/DACA in the first place.
Although it is laudable (and long past due) for Obama to pass immigration executive action, his response to this question was disappointing and ambiguous at best.
The President felt compelled to first state that “no one should hire a lawyer or a notary” in order to apply for deferred action status, or DAPA. Obviously Obama has heard about unscrupulous notarios who swindle immigrants, so why not also equate lawyers to the notaries?
Obama later continued to avoid the question by stating that a person contemplating signing up for deferred action status “should trust the American people” not to deport the applicant later on. “If enough people sign up then you won’t be in danger”. The President then commented in passing that “people are free to explore other ways to become legal”.
What is concerning about the President’s response is the lack of trust in attorneys who can advise people in advance of applying for deferred action status and the leap of blind faith he is encouraging in just signing up without question. The “elephant in the room” and what was absent in today’s dialogue with the President (as well as with many well-meaning organizations that wish to sign up people for deferred action status en masse) is the fact that the action being deferred (temporarily) is called “deportation”. In other words, is like Obama was saying:
“Hey applicant, trust me and the American people not to deport you… and especially, don’t seek legal counsel before deciding to come out of the shadows and tell the feds who you are and where you live”.
Any person who does not at least consult with a competent immigration lawyer before deciding to trust what future voters and Congress might do in the future are in for a major disappointment should Congress fail to pass sensible immigration reform within the next three years. If you believe that Congress truly has the will to be reasonable and pass comprehensive immigration reform, look at the past 13 years. Look to John Boehner or your local House Representative. Will you also trust the will of the House of Representatives to keep your family intact?
In sum, the line out of the United States might be a short one for people who do not explore all of their legal immigration options before coming out of the shadows. Some may be surprised to hear that Congress does not exactly agree with Obama’s enforcement priorities or that a Republican President in 2016 might differ with Obama. Anyone can get in front of this line: si se puede!
Sean Lewis is an immigration attorney in Nashville and may be reached at 615-226-4236 (615-ABO-GADO).