Let me begin with a few facts before I even address anything I heard at the Immigration forum at AACC on Tuesday, October 24th. Here it is...We were all from immigrants unless you are Native American in the United States. Some immigrants came as property owners, skilled labors, family members, slaves (human trafficking), or opportunities for freedom and/or quality of life. In general, laws were always in place against immigrants. Think about that for a moment.
The first panel member was Dan Smulow, Esq., who is the Senior Litigation Counsel at U.S. Dept of Justice, office of Immigration Litigation. He is assigned to the National Security Unit. The second was Gabriela Quercia Kahrl, Esq., who is a Staff Attorney at the Immigration Clinic at University of Maryland Carey School of Law. The third panel was Heather Benno, Esq., who is a Managing Attorney with Catholic Charities of Baltimore, Immigration Legal Services. She oversees their general immigration and victim services. Their challenge was time, facts, and more facts. Dan Smulow pointed out that the table of content for the immigration laws were at least 225 pages with the text being at least 25,000 page. It was called "the blue book."
Dan began with the breakdown of the order of the immigration system which are Custom Border Protection, Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Department of Justice. Each part has a place in the process. The public hears more about the enforcement instead of learning about how many visa types that are present. One of the points made was the countries that was considered in danger changes. He was not able to state the countries because of his position. Another point was the right to an attorney isn't covered. The individuals are on their own.
Gabriela stated one point throughout her part, which was the unfairness in the process. The price paid for making a mistake can cost the immigrant the right to stay in the United States. Her honest advice if the immigrant were to be in jeopardy was to "remain calm, be truthful, and assert your right." She pointed out there are ways to "clear" your record by a post conviction removal although it is still present. It was a lot to process but it comes to protecting your 4th amendment rights.
Heather started with a real case of a single father with 2 children and an abused American ex-wife. The father left his wallet at home and his child was sick. He stole a 7.00 bottle of Motrin. He required 2 attorneys with his case and one was criminal. He was part of the community, attended church, and also served in the military. It was not necessary! Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) biggest reasons for coming the United States was safety, The important points were coming in before the age of 16, and date, manner, and place of entry. There are 3 cases that are in the works with one in California, New York, and Maryland. She addressed other issues of concern like duel positions for officers in the legal system and other policy changes that can be made by the President.
What did I get from this? We need to consider the opportunities or skills these individual share with us. We need to understand they want the same chances that our ancestors received. They are human beings that deserve a right to live, earn, and improve themselves. We would hope they give us the same opportunities for our need to live, earn, and improve ourselves if we were in their country. It is all about respect, mutual respect.
Photo: Dan Smulow, Esq. , Gabriela Quercia Kahrl, Esq., and Heather Benno, Esq.