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Attorney says Obama administration's 'Dreamer Initiative' is good for Great Bend

POSTED June 21, 2012 10:01 p.m.

Last week, as President Barack Obama announced he would halt the deportation of certain young immigrants, Great Bend Attorney Robert Feldt and about 2,000 other immigration attorneys watched the announcement on TV. The June 15 announcement coincided with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s annual convention, held in Nashville, Tenn.
Members of the association were quick to applaud the president’s so-called “Dreamer Initiative” as being good for the United States. Feldt said it is also good for Great Bend.
“The new policy announced on June 15, 2012, will be a welcome benefit to many young ‘Dreamers’ who have graduated from Great Bend High School, or who are presently still in school, and even some who have gone on to attend and graduate from Barton Community College,” said Feldt, who also serves as a BCC trustee. “This will encourage these young people to remain in school and pursue career goals that would have been nearly impossible without this new deferred status policy.”
Feldt said he can think of at least 10 Great Bend residents who could be affected by this policy shift. He suspects there are many more. It doesn’t change their status as illegal immigrants – it’s not amnesty, he said – but it keeps young people who have grown up in this country safe from the threat of unwarranted deportation. Last year, the Great Bend Tribune reported on one such person, Angel Armendariz-Galindo, a client of Feldt’s. His parents came to the United States legally when he was 10 months old, but they stayed here longer than was legal. Armendariz-Galindo grew up in Great Bend, graduated from Great Bend High School, and considered himself an American, but he couldn’t get a driver’s license and was nearly deported when he committed the criminal act of driving without a license.
When the rules for the Obama administration’s new policy are written, which should be in about 60 days, Feldt said, people under 30 years old, who were brought to this country as minors and meet other requirements will no longer face the threat of deportation. They’ll be allowed to get jobs and pay taxes, get driver’s licenses and attend school. They won’t get green cards and won’t be able to sponsor family members for citizenship; they’ll simply be left alone.
As Annuluisa Padilla notes on the American Immigration Lawyers Association blog, this policy has been used before. It’s called “deferred action,” and “has long been used by U.S. presidents to prevent the removal of immigrants for humanitarian reasons. A grant of deferred action is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion; the Department of Homeland Security, focusing on violent criminals and national security risks, essentially postpones the removal of an immigrant whose case is not a priority – hard-working mothers and fathers, for example.”
Feldt said the new policy will be good for our school, as more students are admitted to Barton and other colleges and universities, good for the economy, and good for law enforcement and the judicial system.
“There are scores of what we call Dreamers in our community,” Feldt said. “I have a client who came here when he was 8 months old.”  Feldt described clients who have graduated from GBHS and earned degrees at BCC and Fort Hays State University. “They all live under the shadow and dread of being deported.”
While this policy does less than the Dream Act, which passed in the House of Representatives but not in the Senate, Padilla notes, “This action give Congress the space needed to reach a consensus and craft a bipartisan solution that fixes America’s broken immigration system once and for all.”
Feldt added a word of caution: No one who is not facing removal proceedings should apply for deferred action until the new application guidelines are announced, which should be by the middle of August. He recommends that young immigrants who qualify for deferred action seek the advice of an attorney, and not turn to so-called “Notarios.” Padilla offers similar advice, stating, “In the United States, notarios have no legal background and cannot legally practice law or represent you.


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