By: Lori T. Williams, Owner/Managing Attorney of Your Legal Resource, PLLC
Until this past summer, teens who graduated from United States high schools without becoming legal citizens, had difficulty applying to colleges and often could not obtain legal employment. Even if they came to this Country as infants and were raised here all their lives, without legal status as US citizens, many were not able to obtain jobs or degrees. This situation changed on June 15, 2012, when the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and who met certain criteria could request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization. The application process is called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. The criteria for DACA applicants and the filing process is noted at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Immigration Attorney Svetlana Lebedinski notes that “young people will greatly benefit from DACA. First, they will be able to obtain employment authorization, a social security number, and a peace of mind. They will be able to pursue higher education at in-state tuition rates.”
Svetlana has a passion for individuals and families in need of immigration assistance. As a 15 year old child, she immigrated from the Ukraine to the United States with her parents and grandparents, and settled in Metro Detroit. She began her journey in Immigration Law while still in law school, working as a paralegal for a large Immigration law firm in Troy, MI. She continued on with the firm after graduating law school and learned about work visas, and other employment based immigration matters. Svetlana related to the legal needs and emotional struggles of immigrant families looking to reunite, and decided to open her own Immigration practice focused on all aspects of Immigration Law.
Svetlana has some experience with clients who fall within the DACA guidelines. Her practice is currently located in Berkley, MI. Svetlana notes that, “DACA applies to individuals between 15 and 30 years old, who have either entered U.S. illegally as a child or have since lost their legal status. To qualify, they must have been continuously resided in U.S. for the last 5 years, have graduated from high school, received GED or are currently enrolled in qualifying studies and not have criminal history (driving without a license will not disqualify otherwise eligible individual). There are other requirements, which are too lengthy to discuss here. However, each situation must be carefully evaluated to determine if the person qualifies. Since August 15, 2012, nearly 175,000 applications were filed and almost 5,000 were approved. Current processing times are estimated to be from 4-6 months. When approved, DACA will provide deferral from removal and employment authorization, if there is economic necessity. Every 2 years, DACA and employment authorization must be renewed.”
DOING IT YOURSELF CAN CAUSE LEGAL PROBLEMS LATER:
Svetlana recommends seeking legal counsel from an Immigration attorney regarding any immigration benefit or change of status. If someone cannot afford an attorney, there are community-based non profit organizations throughout Metro Detroit that can help guide families. Click here for a listing of Free Legal Services Providers, from the Detroit Immigration Court.
“I think the biggest misconception people have about immigration law is that they can do it themselves, and if anything goes wrong – then they will call the lawyer. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong, even an experienced attorney may not be able to help. Immigration law is complex and, even though there is plenty of information available online or through community organizations – there are twists and turns with every case. Just as there are no two people alike, there are no two immigration cases that are the same. In regards to students, it is important not to make the mistake of claiming false U.S. citizenship or a false social security number in an attempt to receive financial aid. When the child grows up and finds a way to gain legal status, past mistakes may prevent him or her from receiving otherwise available immigration benefit.”
Additionally, it is important to consult with an Immigration Attorney prior to entering a plea on a criminal charge. ”Even green card holders can be removed from the United States for certain crimes committed. Therefore, it is an absolute must for someone who is not a U.S. citizen to consult immigration attorney at the same time or BEFORE a criminal attorney in deciding whether or not to plead guilty to a certain criminal charge,” according to Svetlana.
For more information about Svetlana or her firm, visit her website.
Additional articles on DACA are noted below: