By Priscilla Liguori
Since Donald Trump became the president-elect, millions have been apprehensive about the uncertain future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), making the work of immigration lawyers like Emily Amara Gordon more important than ever.
Gordon, who practices in Boston, explained, “The only facts we have right now are what the president-elect said he would do. There has been no policy change.”
When Trump was campaigning, he said he would cancel all of President Barack Obama’s executive actions. This includes DACA, which is a policy that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to obtain work permits and protection from deportation. Gordon said she is handling fear among DACA recipients by being as conservative as possible.
“There is a concern that DACA may not be worth applying for because the information will be sent to the government, and now the government could have that in the event of wanting to deport someone,” Gordon said.
Attorney Susan Church, chair of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she is getting flooded with calls from DACA recipients terrified about the futures of their families, jobs and college careers.
“It’s an extremely nerve-racking event for people,” Church said. “It really depends on the state that clients are in, the laws of the state and whether there’s any chance that the state will pass some laws that will protect people.”
Gordon agreed that there is no straight answer when dealing with DACA-related cases and said she is getting all cases filed as soon as possible.
Since the election, Gordon hasn’t had cases about whether or not to apply for DACA, but rather whether to renew the grant or fight a prior denial. This means the government already has her clients’ information. “I do my best to inform the client fully [of the possible benefits gained or lost] and let the client decide,” Gordon said.
As of June, 1.3 million DACA requests were accepted. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin are working on a bipartisan bill to give temporary protection to DACA recipients.
According to Gordon, providing support is an important part of this personal area of immigration law. “If I went to a place that would be very confusing to me and somebody told me I was being deported, I’d really hope someone had the compassion and ability to explain it to me in a way I’d understand,” she added.
Gordon said that if Trump does attempt to deport millions of people, as he said he would during his campaign, she thinks the court system would collapse since many courts are already backed up years in advance.
“I’m concerned that there’s this feeling that somebody could leave the next day. Most people would have a right to a hearing,” Gordon said. She expressed that she thinks the court system would almost have to be eliminated and rewritten in order to accommodate millions of new cases. She also doesn’t see how immediate deportations could be possible with the budgets and resources of the Homeland Security and the Justice Departments.
Obama said about DACA in his first press conference after the election, “I will urge the president-elect and the incoming administration to think long and hard before they are endangering that status of what for all practical purposes are American kids.”
Gordon looks at each DACA case as having an impact on the future of America. “You never know…if someone is deported, leaves the country or can’t come in at a border due to error or miscommunication, we could be turning away the future scientist who cures cancer or the future Nobel Peace Prize winner,” she said.
Immigration law is personal to Gordon, and that is why she is fighting for DACA recipients. “My grandmother had to quit school to work and was illiterate,” she said. “This country allowed my grandmother to have a granddaughter who became a lawyer. I try to keep that close to my heart and remember that with my clients.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Priscilla Liguori is graduating Emerson College as a broadcast journalism major and business minor in December 2016. She’s pursuing a career as an on-air reporter and is a multimedia journalist at WEBN-TV Boston. Past internships include NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, The TODAY Show and American Program Bureau. Priscilla was the executive producer and a reporter for WEBN’s 2015 Emmys Special, the co-host of WEBN’s 2016 Oscars Special and the managing editor at WEBN. Follow Priscilla on Twitter @PriscillaLNews.