One of the most frustrating things about being an immigration lawyer has always been the fact that there were so many people we were unable to help. Immigration laws have been narrow, unforgiving and out of balance with the needs of the country. For those who argue that those who are undocumented or who want to live in this country need to “get in the back of the line”, the best response is simply, “there is no line”.
President Obama’s Executive Action announced last week was a courageous step in the right direction. Millions of people for whom there was no line will soon be given the opportunity to get into the system. If this immigration action is an impetus to get Congress to enact something more permanent, that would be best of all. However, the value of obtaining Employment Authorization Documents, Social Security Numbers, Driver’s Licenses and all of the privileges such documentation bestows should not be underestimated. Once people have these documents, it is difficult for the government to take them away, especially from millions of people.
Our firm, along with many other immigration firms throughout the country, is keeping a list of potentially eligible applicants for Obama’s Action as well as potential comprehensive immigration reform that may eventually become law. Although we are consulting with potential clients to examine their situations and determine their likely eligibility for benefits, we are not actually accepting cases at this time as the details of what will be required have not yet been released.
I suggest that those of you who have been living in the shadows start interviewing and locating an immigration lawyer or firm that has a list. Once you feel comfortable with the firm, ask to be placed on the list and contacted when it is possible to move forward with your case. Past experience has shown that most reputable firms will have accepted the maximum number of cases relatively early on. Being on a list can increase the likelihood that competent immigration representation will be available when you need it. Although Obama’s executive actions do not have a deadline per se, the next President can invalidate the executive order upon taking office. This is an opportunity that should not be passed by.