Philadelphia immigration lawyers swamped because of Obama deportation change

Lawyers across Philadelphia are hearing from illegal immigrants who hope to benefit from the Obama administration’s new stance on deportation.  Last week the White House announced it wants to put high priority on removing convicted criminals, and low priority on cases that involve people who pose no security threat.  Philadelphia area immigration attorney Joseph Hohenstein says most of the people contacting him, ask:”Is it an amnesty?  And where do I go get my green card?” said Hohenstein.  “We really have to explain to them that it’s more in the form of what I would say is a press release than an actual change in policy because the structures to make it a change in policy really haven’t been put in place yet.”Another Philadelphia area immigration attorney, Djung Tran, says for people who have not committed crimes other than breaking immigration law, this could make a difference.”It’s not something that gives them a total out from their situation,” said Tran.  It’s kind of a suspension of the ax over their head.  But it can make a difference but if you’re put in proceedings you can say, I’m supposed to be low priority.”Tran says the policy shift could help one of her clients–a 30 year old immigrant from Mexico who’s now living in the Philadelphia suburbs with his girlfriend and four children.  About two years ago, he was in a car that was stopped by Police.”He’s not a convicted felon, he has US citizen children, and the fact that he has strong ties to the community should make him a low priority for deportation,” said Tran.  “So when we go to the judge besides asking for cancelation of removal we can also ask the ICE attorney on the other side–representing the government–‘Would you be willing to withdraw your prosecution of this case because he’s obviously a low priority?'”In some ways the Administration’s new priorities are making it tougher for lawyers.Attorney Joseph Hohenstein says it’s a confusing time.”Just for instance, my colleague was in court and said, ‘I would like a continuance because of this policy.  It sounds as if my client is not a criminal and would not be somebody who would be of interest for the government.’  And the government attorney said, ‘Well we don’t have instructions on how to implement it so we can’t agree to continue the case.'”Hohenstein hopes the Administration’s announcement will push Congress to change actual immigration law.

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