The Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston Law Center, a nationally recognized clinic on immigration law, is launching a program to help certain undocumented immigrants deal with a new federal policy that could allow them to stay in the United States under deferred action without fear of immediate deportation.
Top priority will be given to University of Houston System students, but the plan is to expand the program to others needing assistance. UH will be offering general information sessions on the government’s new policy with times and locations to be determined in the coming days.
“This is a historic moment because almost two million people who arrived in the U.S. as children may be eligible for temporary relief from removal,” said Geoffrey A. Hoffman, clinical associate professor and faculty supervisor of the Immigration Clinic that is implementing the program.
President Obama and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the directive on June 15. It will enable those who qualify to obtain a two-year deferment from deportation and the opportunity to apply for permission to work legally in the United States. Application information and forms are available online through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. As of Aug. 15, applications can now be formally filed.
“This is seen by many as the start of a critical period where applicants are seeking legal advice and guidance,” said Hoffman. “We want to be proactive in providing free, accurate information that will help people understand the eligibility requirements and not be confused by misinformation,” he said.
The initiative is a component of the Immigration Clinic and will not affect the longstanding mission of the clinic to assist immigrants on a variety of other matters.
“The Immigration Clinic has long provided a much-needed service to the community while giving our law students invaluable experience in dealing with complicated immigration issues,” said University of Houston Law Center Dean Raymond T. Nimmer.
The non-profit, non-partisan Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 1.8 million individuals in the U.S. who could potentially benefit from the new policy. Texas, with an estimated 210,000, is second only to California.
Immigration Clinic faculty will meet with potential applicants to provide information on how to take advantage of the new policy, to review documents, and to offer consultation. Appointments are limited and must be made a week in advance. More than 15 Immigration Clinic law students will assist during consultations. Clinic staff will decide on a case by case basis whether they can assist an applicant with the process or if circumstances require the services of a private attorney.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, individuals may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if they meet certain requirements which include:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making a request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The latest directive is different from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act, which has been proposed and defeated in Congress numerous times, because it does not lead to citizenship or any status and can be revoked at any time.
For more information, contact the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic at 713.743.2094 or visit http://www.law.uh.edu/clinic/immi.asp.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation's best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 39,500 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.
About the University of Houston Law Center
The University of Houston Law Center is the leading law school in the nation's fifth-largest legal market. Founded in 1947, it is a top-tier institution awarding Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees. The Law Center is fully accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the American Association of Law Schools.