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Immigration order may create chance, confusion

This undated file photo is an illegal immigrant trying to climb over a security fence that divides the Mexico-United States' border at the International Bridge, north pass in Arizona. President Obama announced sweeping changes in the nation's immigration policy, although how they'll be implemented remains to be determined.
Associated Press | EFE FILES

Be cautious

Only licensed attorneys or non-profit programs with accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals can assist persons in immigration matters in the U.S. If you believe you have been a victim of someone posing to help submit an application, can call the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Regulation Counsel at 303-457-5800 for assistance.

For information

Catholic Charities in Glenwood Springs offers consultations at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Catholic Charities charges $35. Call 970-384-2060.

In Eagle County

Immigration attorney Koby Polaski at koby@immigrationissues.com. Call 970-446-1056, or visit http://www.immigrationissues.com. She’s located at 97Main Street, Suite W206 in the Edwards Riverwalk.

In Glenwood Springs

Lucy Laffoon: Go to laffoonlaw.com or call 970-945-1183

Immigration lawyer Jennifer Smith will have open hours at her office on Dec. 5 to answer preliminary questions about the president’s executive orders. 970-945-5111

Attorney Ted Hess is hosting a community forum on the orders at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. 970-945-5300

EAGLE COUNTY — The president’s plan for illegal immigrants may be much ado about nothing, or everything.

“It may make no difference. It may change everything,” said Marian McDonough, with Catholic Charities in its Glenwood Springs office.

She does know a couple things.



“I anticipate our office will get very busy with people looking for information,” McDonough said. “We’ll be flooded with calls.”

It’s also a big question for our regional economy.



“It’s important for this region because so many of these people work in the hospitality industry,” McDonough said.

What it is and What it is not



The president’s plan could affect 4 million to 5 million of the nation’s 11.4 million illegals, according to the Migration Policy Center.

Among other things, it expands the Deferred Action Program for young immigrants that began in 2012. It also establishes a temporary benefit program for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, said Cheryl Martinez-Gloria, director of immigration services with Catholic Charities.

“It’s not a green card and all it will do is keep you from being deported by the federal government,” said Heather Lemon, a local Realtor and immigration attorney.

About 1.2 million young immigrants are eligible under the 2012 order, and half of them have applied and been accepted, according to the Migration Policy Center.

Koby Polaski, an immigration attorney based in The Riverwalk at Edwards, said it’s not amnesty and does not confer permanent status.

“Only Congress has the power to do that,” she said. “They will have a temporary protection from deportation and the opportunity to obtain work authorization.”

It’s an opportunity to live without fear of deportation, said Lucy Laffoon, an immigration attorney in Glenwood Springs.

“There are plenty of people over the generations who have come into the country and overstayed their visas, or have entered the country illegally and now have citizen children. Their children’s lives are here,” Laffoon said. “This is to stop human rights abuses, as well. They want to live in safety and without fear.”

Three to six months

The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service won’t be accepting applications for at least three months, maybe six months, Martinez-Gloria said.

It’s also unclear what the requirements will be, Lemon said.

“It’s not going to be as easy as some people think that it is,” Lemon said.

Under that 2012 order, you needed five years worth of records proving you lived in the U.S. Those kind of requirements will likely be similar this time around.

“We told people years ago to begin keeping records, so when something happens they’d be ready,” Lemon said.

There’s bound to be a background check, Lemon said. Under that 2012 order, if you had broken the law — any law — then you would not be eligible.

They’re looking for people who have good moral character. You’re not eligible if you’ve been deported before, Laffoon said.

There’s also a trust issue.

“A lot of people who would qualify are worried that their private data in the federal government’s hands would harm them. They worried that if something illegal comes up in their background checks, they might be deported,” Lemon said.

Confusion and con men

McDonough cautioned that it’s also an opportunity for swindlers.

“People should not be paying anyone right now to submit applications. People will tell applicants that they’ll submit the application on their behalf, but there is no application yet,” McDonough said.

While the president issued his federal order, state governments will put it into action and each state has its own rules, Lemon said. It probably won’t be handled the same way everywhere.

It probably won’t be free, either. Lemon said a green card costs a couple thousand dollars. Under that 2012 program, it costs another $500 for each person to apply — every person in the family.

“No one knows what this is going to cost,” Lemon said.

These USCIS programs run on the fees the agency collects, so congressional threats to cut the agency’s funding could be meaningless.

Political problems

Predictably, it’s being dismissed as political pandering.

The next president could strike down Obama’s order, Lemon said.

Congressman Scott Tipton represents most of Eagle County in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he’s no fan of Obama’s order.

“When Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, the president took no action on immigration. He even admitted time and again that he did not have the authority to act unilaterally,” Tipton said. “Now, he’s rushing to implement overreaching executive orders to politicize the issue rather than fix the problems with the system. This is a disservice to the American people and sends the wrong message to those who are in line going through the immigration process legally.”

“As I have been advocating for years, that solution begins with enhanced, verifiable border security and a strengthened guest worker program before any other action is taken,” Tipton said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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