Area immigration attorneys busy ahead of Trump presidency

In case you missed it, immigration attorneys are seeing an increase  calls from residents concerned about how Trump’s administration will affect their families….
(story originally published in the Cape Cod Times on Jan. 1, 2017 by Haven Orecchio-Egresitz)

Immigration attorneys are seeing an uptick in calls from Cape Codders concerned about how Donald Trump’s administration will affect their families after the president-elect’s statements that he would deport millions of immigrants and “build a wall” between Mexico and the United States.nThese concerns have prompted some offices to offer workshops to address possibilities of what may be to come and to educate people on their rights.

“There is a lot we don’t know yet. We’re getting a sense of what questions people have,” said Schuyler Pisha, legal director of the immigration law programs at Catholic Social Services. “Trump has said he’s going to deport everybody who is here undocumented. I don’t thinks that’s true because it would be a huge hit to the economy … as well as the humanitarian issue. He can go and round people up, but unless they have a deportation order, each one has to have a hearing.

“It’s not as simple as rounding them up and dropping them off on the other side of the border. That’s just not constitutional.”

Catholic Social Services, which is based in Fall River and offers legal services to those who qualify financially, is offering free informational sessions, “Preparing for President Trump,” in southeastern Massachusetts, including on Jan. 22 at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle, on Nantucket.

The Hyannis-based Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and the Islands launched its Immigration Resource Center in March after noticing an uptick of immigrants seeking legal services. The center, which had its grand opening in September, provides free immigration representation, citizenship courses and assistance to immigrants.

Every month since the opening, the number of clients have increased an average of 10 percent, according to Collin Mickle, the center’s coordinator. It can’t be determined, however, whether the increase is due to Trump’s statements on immigration or just growing awareness about the center’s free services.

In fact, the attorney is concerned that many undocumented immigrants who were preparing to apply for their green card won’t do so now out of fear of deportation because they will have to provide their name or address to the government. Every case is different, but green card applications take approximately 18 months to be processed.

“We’d love to see more people,” Mickle said. “It is safe to come here. The election has not yet changed immigration law or policy.”

Pisha, however, said that he believes there is a strong likelihood that there will be immediate changes to immigration policy when Trump takes office.

For example, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is an immigration policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.

The policy, which gives immigrants who came to the United States as children a chance to earn money for the nearly $1,000 green card application and legal fees, was created through executive order by President Barack Obama. It could be easily undone by Trump, Pisha said.

“That’s the kind of thing people are very hesitant to apply for now because it’s a program that will likely end,” Pisha said. “People are very scared for good reason; it really remains to be seen what will happen. Were going to be doing some outreach on the Cape. We don’t want people to be any more afraid than they have to, but there are reasons to be concerned.”

In 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers raided a New Bedford factory and took 361 workers into custody who were believed to be in the U.S. illegally, Pisha said, describing an eerie scene of the workers’ children never being picked up from school, businesses struggling to operate and cars being abandoned in the streets. Many of those taken into custody later gained legal residency, he said.

“People came to realize how woven into the community hard-working immigrant families are,” Pisha said. “If you just have massive indiscriminate raids, it’s really going to stretch the capacities of legal services.”

Catholic Social Services works on about 50 deportation cases a year but gets requests from about 500 defendants, he said. When those taken into custody by ICE don’t have legal representation, they may end up being forced out of the country despite having legitimate reasons to stay, such as the potential of being harmed if they are returned to their home country.

The Immigration Resource Center can’t see clients who have open deportation cases, but it prepares immigrants for becoming a citizen and assists them in filing for programs such as DACA and visas available for victims of domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act.

For Mickle, getting documentation for abused women so they can remove themselves from dangerous situations without the fear of deportation is the most rewarding part of his work.

“The Cape is steadily becoming more diverse,” Mickle said.

– Follow Haven Orecchio-Egresitz on Twitter: @havenCCT

Editor’s note: The original version of this story contained incorrect information about the date for the free informational sessions, “Preparing for President Trump,” on Nantucket. It also contained incorrect information about a 2007 raid at a New Bedford factory. The story has been corrected.