St. John’s Antigua- A new Obama administration policy could save Caribbean people from being deported from the United States.
An immigration and deportation attorney tells Antiguans and Barbudans illegally residing in the United States to move with haste in taking advantage of the newly implemented “deferred action” policy.
“My advice to them is to take advantage of it right now, don’t wait. The moment they say that the applications are available, get it done,” urged New York-based attorney, Fitzmore Harris.
The new Obama policy, announced on June 15, will apply to 800,000 illegal immigrants. It pertains to illegal immigrants who are under 30, arrived in the United States before their sixteenth birthday, and who have lived in the country for the last five years.
The applicants cannot have a criminal record and must have obtained a high school or equivalency certificate or be serving in the military or have been honorably discharged.
Those who meet the condition can apply for “deferred action” that eradicates the risk of deportation for two years. However, it does not grant citizenship.
A release from Janet Napolitano, secretary of National Security said United States laws were not designed to be “blindly enforced” without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case.”
It went on to say, “Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language.”
The attorney apprised that around 25 per cent of his clients would be positively affected by what he called the “humanitarian loophole.”
Harris is particularly enthusiastic by what this means for the Antiguan and Barbudan youth currently in this predicament.
“What is exciting about this for the people is this, especially Antiguan folks who brought their kids here when they were very young and kept them here: these people will now not face deportation…These kids are not going to face it,” Harris said.
He warned that the immigration loophole could be rescinded at anytime.
“It is not a change in law, it is a change in policy,” Harris said. “The attorney general has discretion in the enforcement of immigration laws in the United States.”
The attorney added, “The congress would have to pass laws saying that anyone who came in under a certain age cannot be found culpable of violating immigration laws. It has to go through congress… It can be reversed at anytime.”
However, Harris said the law is not retroactive and will not apply to persons who have already been deported to their respective countries.
“It does not address the issue. It only addresses people who are currently in the United States,” he said. “Those in deportation (holding) would get a reprieve.”
The deferred action policy would grant eligible illegal immigrants work permits, which would allow them to seek employment in the United States. Their immigration status would be reviewed every two years.