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President Obama's US Immigration Reform Program

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U.S. Immigration Reform in 2015 - Time to Get Organized?
If you are an immigrant in the United States without lawful status, or a member of a church or community organization that may be willing to help you and others who are illegally in the United States, the following interview will be important for you to read. Andy J. Semotiuk is a U.S. immigration attorney who has been practicing immigration law for over 40 years and has helped over 10,000 clients with legal problems. He is licensed to practice in both New York and in California.

In this interview Mr. Semotiuk discusses the recently announced immigration reforms adopted by President Obama referred to as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parent Accountability) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that make it possible for millions of illegal immigrants to get relief from removal and work permits. By working through churches, unions, and community organizations Mr. Semotiuk will be helping immigrants take advantage of these new programs at minimal cost and with minimal hardship. Mr. Semotiuk may be able to help you as well.

He was asked several questions about the immigration reforms, his approach to helping immigrants that could benefit from the reforms, and what they can expect.
Mr. Semotiuk, shortly after President Obama announced the so-called DAPA and DACA reforms they became the subject of litigation. Aren’t these programs currently blocked by a court injunction?

That is true. But most immigration attorneys, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, many law professors, as well as the White House, expect it is only a matter of time before the count injunction against the programs will be lifted. I believe it is only a matter of months at most before they will become open. Once the gate opens there will be a flood of applications and before long one can imagine a waiting line will form that will take time to process. The sooner your application is filed the quicker the approval will come once the program starts. For these reasons in my opinion it is best to prepare now. As I will outline in this interview there is little to lose and much to gain from getting ready now.
OK. Can you give us more information about who can benefit from the DAPA and DACA programs as they were announced?

Well, let me start by saying these programs will not help illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for less than five years.

However, for those immigrants who have been in the U.S. for five years or more, the programs will help as follows:

Under DAPA such persons can get a three-year work permit and relief from removal if they have a child that was either: a) born here, b) became a permanent resident here, or c) became a citizen here (such as a child who was sponsored by a U.S. spouse).

Under DACA such persons can get a three-year work permit and relief from removal if they came to the U.S. when they were under 16 years of age.

While these criteria may appear to be quite limited, there are an estimated 4 million illegal immigrants who will qualify.
What should an illegal immigrant do, if anything, to prepare for these programs?

MR. SEMOTIUK: Many U.S. immigration attorneys, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association where I am a member, believe it is appropriate to start collecting information and copies of documents that these immigration programs will likely require, such as identity documents, family records and write-ups about how the immigrants came to the United States.
Are you helping immigrants unlawfully present in the United States in this regard?

MR. SEMOTIUK: Yes. I have started to hold meetings in churches, unions, and community organizations with illegal immigrants in the United States to help those individuals who can benefit from the immigration reforms to get them ready.
So what should a potential applicant start doing right now?

Mr. Semotiuk: The starting point in preparing for these programs is to open a new file folder for yourself where you can collect all your documents. It is very important to stay organized and to make copies of all original documents before you will send them away.

To start with, it will cost $465 in government filing fees as well as the cost of preparing the paperwork to apply for deferred action. So you should start saving now or talking to your local credit union to see if you can get a low-interest loan. I would budget for not less than $ 1000 per illegal immigrant that will be applying.

As far as documents are concerned, there are several categories to consider. You will need to prove who you are through identity documents. These could include a passport from your home country, a government-issued ID, a driver’s license or a birth certificate with photo ID.

Since under DAPA you will need to prove you have a spouse and a child who is a U.S. citizen or someone who has a green card and permanent residence, you will need a marriage certificate, birth certificates, proof of U.S. citizenship through a U.S. passport or naturalization certificate or a green card.

Under DAPA and DACA you will have to show how long you have been in the U.S. The following are some documents that can help you show this: employment records, school records, medical or hospital records, letters, bills (cable TV, electricity, phone, gas, etc.), leases, rent payments, receipts, passport with admission stamp, copies of money order receipts, bank transactions.

If you have any criminal convictions or a criminal record, you should get an FBI police report and a certified copy of your court record. Then we will need to review your situation.

If you have had any troubles with immigration, you should collect any immigration papers you were given in the past.
So what exact legal services are you offering clients then?

Mr. Semotiuk: At the moment our legal services include the following:

  • With the help of churches, unions and community organizations, I am helping immigrants get their immigration profile organized by collecting relevant information to support their future application.
  • We are collecting copies of documents and organizing them for the future principal applicant, his or her spouse and any children.
  • We are reviewing their profile based on the above outline to determine if at this moment there are any U.S. immigration options open to the family, such as qualifying under previous U.S. amnesties or by reason of a change of status.
What does the client specifically get as a result of working with you?

Mr. Semotiuk: Apart from the organization of the client’s immigration case and documentation as mentioned, we will provide the client with a checklist from our office indicating what we have reviewed, showing how well organized they are to meet the DAPA and DACA requirements and what current immigration options, if any, the client has. When the time comes, we will be ready to submit the application.
How much is your fee?

As I mentioned earlier, I normally work with churches, unions and community organizations and they, not individual immigrants, retain my services. My aim is to work through such community organizations to drive down the legal cost per immigrant. The more immigrants we can help and the closer we work together, the lower the cost will be for each one and the better it will be for everyone concerned. In short, I want to make the process as affordable as possible.

My initial meeting in a community is usually free. My only requirement is that there must be at least ten immigrants who attend. For those who are interested in starting an application after hearing what I have to say, the initial cost will be minimal and worked out through the sponsoring organization. As matters progress any costs to be paid will be collected by the sponsoring organization in stages as the work is done and will include such expenses as use of their meeting hall, help with translating documents, my travel costs to come to the meetings, printing off forms and the like. In short this will be a pay-as-you-go, affordable, incremental program.
Isn’t it too early and aren’t you being presumptuous to be charging illegal immigrants to collect information about a program that you cannot guarantee will be implemented? Are you not taking unfair advantage of these vulnerable people? What if DAPA and DACA are not implemented?

Mr. Semotiuk: It is true we are not yet able to file any application on behalf of any illegal immigrant at this moment. I am therefore helping these people based on staged payments, on a pay-as-you-go, volume basis, through the help of community organizations. We will start to prepare cases by collecting together what I think is likely to be needed by the immigrants. The cost will be minimal so there is little to be lost by them. But as the programs open the applicants will all be ready – that is the great advantage we will have. The great advantage will be that as some projected four million applicants start filing their applications by being at the front of the line you will not be lost in the sea of applications backed up by meager U.S. government resources to process what is being submitted. This is a substantial benefit in my view. My view is that it is better to get everything organized and prepared now, even if reform is delayed, rather than to wait until later.
What should people who want your service do?

Mr. Semotiuk: Since I am only providing my service through organizations like churches, unions of community organizations, they should check with their local organization to see if it can invite me to come speak to them. I will be more than pleased to visit any community where I am invited to talk about these immigration programs.
What if someone wants to book a consultation to speak with you about these matters?

Mr. Semotiuk: Although my preference is to deal with people interested in DAPA or DACA through community organizations, I am willing to provide paid consultations through my web site. Just click on the Arrange a Consultation at www.myworkvisa.com for details.