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Obama immigration plan: Advocates offer mixed reactions

June 15, 2012 | 12:29 pm


Immigration advocates and attorneys had mixed reactions Friday to the Obama administration's announcement that it would grant relief from deportation to some young immigrants.

Some were encouraged, saying the policy change could spare many young people from living under threat of deportation. Others questioned the sincerity of the administration.

Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney, said he was highly skeptical about the administration’s plans.

DOCUMENT: Read the immigration fact sheetObama to stop deporting young illegal immigrants

“Our president for the last 3½ years has turned his back on the Hispanic electorate that was instrumental in getting him into office and now he’s trying to extend an olive branch because he has another election a few months away,” Kolken said.

Kolken added that he would take a case-by-case approach with his clients. “If an individual has been in the U.S. and they want to make a request for this action they’re exposing themselves to the possibility of removal proceedings and the possibility that their request will be denied. So it’s a tough call,” he said. “For the people who have already been encountered [by immigration authorities] obviously this is another avenue to kick the can down the road.”

The proposed change, Kolken noted, “doesn’t confer any type of lawful status to anyone who receives deferred action. They’d be placed in immigration limbo … the few people who will benefit are the people who are able to receive a work permit.”

How many immigrants will be eligible for work permits is unclear.

Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Assn., said the order was “an important advance in terms of the administration’s immigration policy.”

Like Kolken, she is still waiting to hear more details about how the process will work. The administration has said it will announce those details within 60 days.

Many immigration attorneys will advise their clients to apply for relief if they qualify, she said.

“It will give them some protection from the overriding fear that they live with, of being deported,” she said. “It’s going to be important for a whole generation of young people who, not of their own volition, are here in the U.S.”

There was some concern among advocates and attorneys that Obama’s policy would be rescinded under a Mitt Romney administration, she said.

“Hopefully, despite Mr. Romney’s rhetoric on immigration, even he wouldn’t be so cruel as to actually rescind and deport people. But that’s always a concern," she said. "Counterbalancing that concern is the fact that hanging over all these people’s heads is the possibility of being deported at any time.”


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-- Paloma Esquivel

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the Department of Homeland Security's recent announcement about deportation of illegal immigrants in the Rose Garden at the White House. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images