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The short answer is no. There is no requirement that you have an attorney in order to apply for any immigration benefit from DREAM deferred action. However, you may need the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney in order to make an informed decision about whether and how to apply for Deferred Action. An experienced immigration attorney can also help you devise a plan of action in the event Deferred Action ends. Remember, Deferred Action is not a law; it is a directive by President Obama and it is no coincidence that this directive was handed down only three months prior the next presidential elections.
One reason you may need and want to consult an attorney is because experienced removal defense attorneys know not to rely upon the provision of confidentiality on DREAM Deferred Action applications to protect unlawfully present relatives of the applicant– ICE has proven it will not keep its promises whether it’s at the agency level (e.g., Memoranda of Understanding and the so-called voluntary nature of the Secure Communities agreements) or at the local level (e.g., ICE deporting cooperative witnesses even after agreeing with prosecutors not to). Additionally, from an enforcement standpoint, ICE has unequivocally expressed its disagreement with the foundational premise of Prosecutorial Discretion so to assume they will abide by any confidentiality agreement or not look into other ways to remove a DREAM Deferred Action candidate is unwise. See ICE Union unanimous no confidence vote in the Morton Memo. In fact, around the time President Obama made the DREAM Deferred Action announcement, a simultaneous sting was carried out in our jurisdiction by ICE. From NTAs and 213s, we now see Operation “Return to Sender” was put into effect around the same time the DREAM Deferred Action announcement was made. In Operation Return to Sender, ICE targeted ULPs and LPRs brought here as young children, including veterans, who were arrested, convicted, and now on probation for that conviction. Yes, they were alleged to be removable regardless, but they were not the specific target of a sting prior to the DREAM Deferred Action announcement. Our local detention facility has been at or near capacity with these detainees ever since.
An experienced immigration attorney can inform you of potential collateral damage that may ensue from any immigration benefit application such as discovery of federal crimes such as false claims made in the course of trying to obtain work (e.g., false claim to U.S. Citizenship on I-9 tax forms), or the discovery that an applicant’s parents (who do not qualify for DREAM Deferred Action) are in the country unlawfully and deportable. An experienced immigration attorney can advise you of these and other collateral damage issues.
If you hire an immigration attorney, it is not to just fill out the forms to apply for DREAM Deferred Action. Quite frankly, you can do that on your own. If you hire an immigration attorney, it is to provide your attorney with your complete history, your current situation, and your future plans, so that the attorney can assist you in making a fully informed decision and to formulate a backup plan for you (in the event DREAM Deferred Action goes away) or your family, if they are in the country illegally.
Any qualified immigration attorney will take at least 30 minutes to conduct a complete intake interview on you and your family history. In our Deferred Action cases, we speak with our clients and their family members for a minimum of one hour and often as much as three.
If a DREAM Deferred Action candidate is charged a retainer by a private immigration lawyer, it should be for far more than simply applying for Deferred Action. Your case may begin, but most certainly does not end, with Deferred Action.