Lawyers field questions on Obama's executive order for young immigrants

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Lawyers field questions on Obama's executive order for young immigrants

By ALLISON STICE
astice@islandpacket.com
Published Sunday, July 15, 2012   |  481 Words  |  

More than 100 people gathered Sunday at Holy Family Catholic Church on Hilton Head Island for a talk with lawyers on what President Barack Obama's executive order granting work permits to young undocumented immigrants could mean for them.

Obama's order does not accomplish what the Dream Act would have, but it is a small step on the path to citizenship for some undocumented youth, organizers said.

The meeting was held to explain who would qualify under the order and to prevent local Hispanics from legal scams promising immigration help, said Mario Martinez of the Mexican-American Coalition.

Aaron Ortiz and Chris Taylor, attorneys who practice in Atlanta, and two local lawyers fielded questions during the question-and-answer session, which was held entirely in Spanish.

The order will allow young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before they were 16, who have lived in the country for more than five years and who meet other requirements to obtain work permits. The work permit, good for two years, does not grant permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, lawyers explained.

The application for the work permit has not been released by the federal government yet -- it is expected on Aug. 15. Immigrants who want to apply should be wary of advertisements from attorneys who say they have the form already, Martinez said.

"(This order) is just a little step that will help a lot kids who want to continue studying or working," Martinez said. "It will bring people out of the shadows and into the economic system and paying taxes."

A flier titled "Calling All Dreamers!" circulated at the forum explained who would qualify under the order.

It applies to undocumented youth under the age of 30 who:

  • Came to the United States when they were under the age of 16.
  • Have lived in the United States for at least five years as of June 15, 2012.
  • Are currently in school or have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED certificate or are honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. military.
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
  • Taylor encouraged those in attendance to get help from an attorney or a licensed nonprofit immigration program when the application is released.

    Catholic Charities will be holding workshops starting Sept. 8 to help people fill out the application, said Holy Family director of Spanish Ministry Nora Bess. The group also will help applicants by providing the $50 processing fee.

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