Photo: Homeland Security Deportation Pilot Program
Attorneys and activists involved in the recently completed pilot program in Denver and Baltimore to review deportation cases expressed their frustration Friday because, while this is a positive step forward, it’s not a real solution to the problem.
“It’s not a solution except in certain specific cases,” Laura Lichter, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Friday in a conference call.
“I think they put really serious effort into this and for a lot of people this is going to be a serious reprieve,” she said. “But for other people it isn’t the solution because it doesn’t get them anywhere. They’re still in purgatory.”
President Barack Obama announced last Aug. 18 a change in how immigration law is to be applied, calling for a “case by case” review of the trials of some 300,000 undocumented immigrants facing deportation procedures, which would allow many of them not only to remain in the United States but also to apply for work permits.
The Department of Homeland Security launched Dec. 4 a six-week pilot program that had prosecutors examining all the cases accumulated in the Baltimore and Denver immigration courts.
Authorities are currently studying ways to expand the pilot program model to immigration courts nationwide.
Though the Obama announcement raised great hopes, up to now his program has only been applied in a few isolated cases, disheartening undocumented immigrants hoping to have their deportation orders rescinded.
For Anna Gallagher, a Washington attorney specializing in immigration cases, the government has not done its part in telling immigrants what they have to do.
“The pilot program has not provided essential information to the people affected, who are of course a very vulnerable social group, so if the program is to be extended to the rest of the country, it absolutely has to change,” she said.
“In Baltimore, our first worry is that people involved in this process don’t known what they have to do, they’re still afraid and they don’t know where they have to go to apply,” Gallagher said.
The director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Julie Gonzales, noted that her state has numerous cases of immigrants who could be deported and considered the measure to be “a gift after many years of restrictions.”
Nonetheless, she agreed with her colleagues that it is “a very slow process that leaves a lot of people in limbo.”