New program helps young immigrants
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
A few months ago, while doing some genealogy research, I came across the naturalization documents of my great-grandparents online. Although my grandparents had told me about their parents’ journey from Italy to the United States in the early 1900s, it was very powerful to see a document bearing their signature and seeking that privilege that many of us take for granted—the privilege of being an American citizen.
Although my focus is generally on civil litigation, construction, and employment matters, I have also developed an immigration law practice which I have to admit is influenced in part by the great respect and gratefulness I have for my great-grandparents risking everything to start a new life in the United States.
We are a nation of immigrants (excepting, of course, Native Americans). This community has a large immigrant population due, in large part, to the seasonal aspect of the agricultural labor in the area.
For the more recent immigrants among us, and for their employers, we must ensure that they obtain the necessary work and resident authorizations. Employers are sanctioned for failing to ensure they have a legal work force and unlawful immigrants are often deported if they do not obtain the proper authorizations.
There are options to accomplish these authorizations that many are unaware of. With the recent announcement by the Department of Homeland Security for a deferred action program for certain young immigrants, we should consider these options and how they might apply to people in this community.
The deferred action program proposes to stop deportations of certain young immigrants unlawfully in the U.S. who are between the ages of 16 and 30 (also known as “DREAMers”). This program presents new opportunities for young immigrants.
Not only would these immigrants qualify for deferred action in deportation proceedings, but they can also apply for work authorization permits so that they can work legally in the United States. After United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) approves an application for deferred action, the applicant can apply for a work permit.
The deferred action and employment authorization lasts for two years, after which it must be renewed.
In order to be eligible for deferred action, individuals must:
• Be age 30 or younger;
• Have come to the United States under the age of 16;
• Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years prior to June 15, 2012, and be present in the United States on June 15, 2012;
• Currently be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Armed Forces;
• Have no serious criminal record.
The final rules for this application are expected to be published within the next month or so.
Obtaining U.S. citizenship
Many workers in Washington state are lawful permanent residents who qualify for U.S. citizenship but are unaware that they qualify for citizenship and further unaware that, if they do become a U.S. citizen, they can apply for visas for their immediate relatives.
A permanent resident can obtain U.S. citizenship within months of applying and then can immediately petition to obtain visas and work permits for his/her spouse and children.
U.S. citizens may apply for visas for their spouses and children (unmarried and under the age of 21). There is no limit for these types of visas and they are immediately processed, providing visas and work permits for relatives of U.S. citizens within five months to one year of the application.
Victims of certain crimes (i.e., domestic violence, assault, murder, rape, extortion, perjury) who assisted in the prosecution of those crimes by providing witness statements either in court or to police officers are eligible for a U Visa, which provides an illegal immigrant with lawful resident status for three years and a work permit.
After three years, the person may apply for permanent resident status if humanitarian grounds, family unity or public interest justify such a grant. The victim can also apply for lawful resident status for his/her children.
The Violence against Women Act (“VAWA”) allows abused spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) to file a petition for themselves to become a lawful resident and apply for work authorization without the abuser’s knowledge.
Employers who are interested in assisting their employees in obtaining citizenship or interested in assisting their relatives to obtain work authorizations should consider the above options.
However, individuals who may qualify for work authorizations should be cautioned to seek the advice of a lawyer or a volunteer organization who specializes in assisting immigrants with such matters as there are a number of individuals and businesses who claim to be experts in this field (often “notarios”) who might not follow the proper procedures and do more harm than good.
The deferred action process offers new hope for young immigrants who know the United States as their home. This community will benefit greatly from the new policy.
Kristin Ferrera is a litigation attorney with the Wenatchee law firm of Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, PS. Her practice areas include complex civil litigation, employment law, federal Indian law, construction litigation and family law.
MORE LIKE THIS
Monday, May 20
Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking - Toastmasters Meeting
First United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, May 20
Wenatchee Fire FC Tryouts
Sunnyslope Elementary School, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 21
Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N. Wenatchee Ave., 7 a.m.
Tuesday, May 21
Alzheimer's Association Caregiver Support Group
Lake Chelan Community Hospital, 1:30 p.m.