Lawyers tell immigrants seek counsel on reform

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Start pulling your papers together now. That was the message Wednesday from top immigration attorneys to Floridians living in the country illegally who want to take advantage of President Barack Obama’s move to temporarily lift the threat of deportation.

Under Obama’s November order, millions of parents of U.S. citizen or legal resident children may be eligible for relief, but not for another six months.

Still, immigration attorney Tammy Fox-Isicoff said they should start gathering evidence of continuous U.S. residence and other requirements. Youth living in the country illegally who arrived in the country before 2010 – and before they turned 16 – may also apply. They need wait only 90 days, but Fox-Isicoff noted they are the least likely to have documents that demonstrate proof of residence and may need to request old school records and other harder to obtain evidence.

At a round table hosted by St. Thomas University Law School in Miami Gardens, attorney John Pratt also cautioned those who’ve had brushes with the law to contact an immigration lawyer before filling out their applications to avoid any potential legal pitfalls.

He and fellow attorney Kira Romero-Craft also stressed the risks of relying on notary publics, or “notarios” in Spanish, for help filling out applications. In Florida, notary publics can only copy information already written into an application. They are prohibited from offering legal advice.

Many notary publics are popular not only because they are less expensive but because they are known in the community, she added. “There’s an accountant who is also a `notario,’ and you trust him because he did your taxes last year and maybe he got you a refund.”

But especially given all the nuances and changes in the law, it’s imperative to have someone who’s schooled in the latest details, the attorneys agreed.

“If I’m really sick, I don’t go to a shaman to take care of me,” Pratt said. “I go to a certified doctor.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.