Do I need an attorney to file for Deferred Action?Posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Many undocumented young people (“Dreamers”) have been asking whether they should hire an immigration attorney to assist them with their Deferred Action (DACA) applications.
Although some applicants may feel confident about completing the process on their own, there are broader issues that may be missed without the guidance of an experienced attorney.
There is some legal help available at free workshops or clinics, but it is often rushed, impersonal, and simply inadequate for all of the Dreamers who need it. Even when volunteer attorneys are available, they may not have the time or immigration experience to fully evaluate a candidate’s situation and provide specific guidance.
There are a number of pitfalls a person may encounter when filling out immigration forms. Unfortunately, USCIS rarely regards incorrect information on a form as simply an error. But it is not the DACA forms alone that create the need for an attorney. Before even beginning the process, Dreamers must understand the risks of applying and consider any paths to permanent residence that may be available.
Filing for DACA requires you to make your unauthorized presence in the U.S. known to the Department of Homeland Security. In exchange, you may get two years of freedom from deportation, the opportunity to work legally, and a valid photo ID. Many applicants are uncertain about this tradeoff and need trustworthy answers to fundamental questions, such as:
- Who will see the information I provide?
- Will my family or employer be at risk?
- What might happen after the first two years?
- What if I don’t have the standard documents USCIS is looking for?
- Can I apply if I’ve been using an invalid social security number or a fake driver’s license?
- Will my juvenile record count against me?
- Are there risks I might not be thinking about?
To make the right decision about whether or when to apply for DACA, you need someone who thoroughly understands the immigration laws and how they are applied. Attorneys are required to provide clear, well-informed guidance and present any reservations they may have about your case. They are also bound by attorney-client privilege, so that anything you tell them must be kept confidential.
Immigration attorneys understand that you might not automatically think of everything in your background that could affect your future, and they are trained to ask probing questions. For some Dreamers, a consultation with an attorney can present unanticipated options for a more permanent status. A consultation also gives family members a chance to ask their questions about the DACA process and their own immigration situations.
Assembling all of the documents that USCIS wants to see is proving to be a challenge for many applicants. Immigration attorneys work every day with clients who do not have the exact evidence USCIS typically requests. In some cases, an attorney can help you obtain an important document that is not currently in your possession. In others, they can suggest alternative ways to prove your DACA eligibility. An attorney will also make sure that you do not accidentally submit anything that may not be helpful to your case. Sometimes, knowing what not to submit is as important as identifying the best items to include with an application.
If you have ever had any contact with the police, even if you have never been convicted, you should retain an attorney to assess any additional risks you may face. For some Dreamers, seemingly minor issues may turn out to be significant. Others may be unnecessarily hesitant to move forward because of a minor incident. Striking the right balance between confidence and caution requires an understanding of state and federal laws that only an attorney possesses.
The biggest reason for hiring an attorney to help you is that there is no opportunity for appeal if your DACA application is denied. In our practice, we often see clients who have received a denial because of an issue they didn’t foresee. In immigration matters, applicants can pay a high price for a small act of carelessness or a simple misunderstanding. As attorneys, we are trained to question, scrutinize, check and double-check to avoid even the smallest error.
Working with an experienced immigration attorney gives you the peace of mind that comes from the highest level of expertise in immigration law. At Immigration Law Associates, we are assisting many Dreamers in applying for Deferred Action, including some who need special assistance to address criminal and other issues. If you think we can help you with your case, please contact us at 847-763-8500.