Immigration Lawyer: Feels Weird to Give Good News to Immigrants

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Attorney David Koelsch, director of the University of Detroit Mercy's Immigration Law Clinic.

“Jose” was a unique client for the long-time immigration attorney who sat across the table and scrutinized his information form.

Not because the teenager was from Mexico. Not because he has been in the United States without legal status for several years. Not because he completed 12 years of education in Detroit Public Schools and graduated from Cass Tech High School.

Not because he’s trying to live and work legally in the United States.

No, “Jose” was refreshing for attorney David Koelsch because as the director of the Immigration Law Clinic at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law he doesn’t often give good news to undocumented immigrants who are seeking a legal route to work, residency or citizenship in the United States.

But with President Obama’s directive in June that cleared a path for certain young people to obtain work permits and avoid deportation, Koelsch could give Jose more than hope.

“You are perfect for this program,” he told the teen.

Koelsch and two of his law student volunteers saw 52 young people Wednesday at the United Auto Workers 600 hall in Dearborn where more than 500 young people crowded an informational and assistance session about the new policy.

Tens of thousands of people attended similar forums nationwide as Aug. 15 was the first day the federal government began accepting petitions as part of the new policy.

Called “Dream Relief – Deferred Action for Children Arrivals,” the program grants undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 a two-year reprieve from deportation provided they have been in the United States since they were children, have clean criminal records, have been in school or the military and other qualifying factors.

Frustrated with Congress’s inability to pass the Dream Act, a bi-partisan supported measure that would have given legal status to some young undocumented immigrants, President Obama used his executive authority to announce the policy in June. This week the paperwork was available and applications will begin. The timetable for notification of acceptance or denial is not known.

Technically applicants could still face deportation if they are “caught” or picked up, but coming to the public event to apply was worth the risk, some said privately.

The Alliance for Immigrant Rights and Reform Michigan hosted Wednesday’s packed session which included an informational video about the process, translation services and the meetings with several lawyers like Koelsch who could assess an applicant’s readiness to apply.

“I’m so used to just giving people bad news. I can’t get my head around this,” Koelsch said, looking at the crowd. “It’s just so weird to give people such good news.”

Koelsch urged those applying to get their applications in, as the political winds could change after the November election.
“There’s no deadline to apply,” Koelsch says, “but we don’t know how long this will be available.”

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