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Trump’s election triggers flood of immigration questions

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Andrea Aguilera sits at the Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. Aguilera, 20, a student at a suburban Chicago college, said she feels uncertain since the election. She was brought to the country illegally as a child and has been able to get a work permit and avoid deportation through a federal program called, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She said she doesn’t know what will happen next with the program.

CHICAGO >> Immigration hotlines are buzzing. Legal clinics are seeing an influx of clients. Public schools are fielding frantic questions from parents and students.

Since the election, Donald Trump’s tough talk on immigration has stirred anxiety nationwide among immigrants regardless of legal status. They are turning to lawyers, schools, advocacy groups and congressional offices for help.

“We’re operating with a lot of unknowns, and a certain amount of fear comes with that,” said Vanessa Esparza-López, a managing attorney at the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.

In Chicago, a hotline run by the state’s largest immigrant-rights group received more than 330 calls in the week after the election, compared with the usual 100 or so. Denver school officials sent a letter to parents in response to questions about the election’s effect on students living in the country illegally.

The New York Legal Assistance Group said it’s receiving 40 to 60 daily calls about immigration, up from 20 to 30. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles reported 19 walk-ins on a single day, all with citizenship questions.

The most urgent inquiries have been from young people benefiting from a 2012 federal program started by President Barack Obama’s administration that allows immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to avoid deportation and get work permits. About 740,000 people have participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals system.

Attorneys say the program is vulnerable because it was created by executive order, not by law, leaving new potential applicants second-guessing whether to sign up.

Andrea Aguilera, a 20-year-old college student in suburban Chicago, feels in limbo with her DACA paperwork expiring next year.

She was brought across the Mexican border illegally as a 4-year-old and largely kept her immigration status secret until she was able to get a work permit through DACA four years ago. She’s since worked as a grocery store cashier and intern at a downtown financial company. Two of her siblings are in the program; another is a U.S. citizen.

“It’s been hard to focus on school,” Aguilera said. “I just don’t know what’s going to come next for us.”

During the campaign, Trump pledged to deport the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and to build a border wall. The Republican president-elect has not detailed how he will proceed and recently walked back the number of anticipated deportees.

The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration levels, explained the spike in activity as uncertainty about whether existing laws will be enforced by Trump’s administration. Jon Feere, a legal analyst at the Washington D.C.-based research organization, said those enrolled in DACA were aware of the risks when they signed up. Others should have little concern.

“Those who are in compliance with the law have nothing to worry about,” he said.

Still, even immigrants with permanent legal status have had questions since the election.

Attorneys and immigrant organizations said green card holders feel new urgency to ensure that paperwork such as a renewal application is in order over fears that laws could change under a new administration. Most immigrants can seek citizenship three to five years after getting a green card.

Roughly 9 million green card holders are currently eligible for citizenship, according to the most recent Department of Homeland Security statistics. Some citizens also sought clarity about when they could sponsor family members abroad.

“People need reassurance,” said Irina Matiychenko, who leads the immigrant protection unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group. “People need guidance.”

In Phoenix, local leaders planned a weekend meeting about being an immigrant in Arizona as an effort to “guide us on the path of trust and unity.” Staff members at the Chicago office of Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez reported an uptick in activity with at least 60 new applications for citizenship the past two weeks.

School districts, including Chicago and Denver, used the election as a way to communicate existing policy.

Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the 90,000-student district sent letters in four languages home in response to what teachers were hearing from students and parents. The letter reiterated that school officials do not ask about immigration status when students enroll.

“In a time of fear and concern, lots of rumors and misinformation spread,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important to get accurate factual information to our families from a very trusted source.”

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Associated Press writers Astrid Galvan in Phoenix, Colleen Slevin in Denver, and Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California, contributed to this report.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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        • Hey! Just as an exercise, tell us about something you DON’T like besides Trump. Venting due to the sheer incompetence of many inept government workers might be therapeutic for you too.

      • Problem is that Obama is part of the problem. He panders to illegals and wanted to grant them amnesty until a recent lawsuit brought by the state of Texas that stopped him. Big business pays him to keep a massive class of people working cheap, the more you flood the market with illegals the cheaper the labor pool. Just look at the entire blue collar industry on the mainland today compared to 20 or 30 years ago. I once recalled seeing teenagers and real white people working at fast food joints, construction, plumbing. Today, you see nothing but 90% illegals working all in cash while claiming they are dirt poor and collecting government benefits.

  • “…the program is vulnerable because it was created by executive order, not by law,…”
    Some of these children and young adults have never known any other country. The fault lies squarely on their parents who committed the Illegal act(s) of sneaking their children and themselves into the USA. They should have tried to find a way to become legal residents, and they didn’t. And now we, the taxpayers, have to “fix” this problem. It’s not the fault of Trump or the Republicans. This has been going on for decades. If we find a path towards citizenship for these “children” what becomes of their parents and their “illegal” status? Once these “children” apply for legal status, their parents crimes will be revealed. Do they continue to live here or will they be subject to deportation?

    • They still game the system. No different than an illegal giving birth in the US to an anchor baby just to suck on the teat of the government. I understand the situation, but life isn’t fair, tons of immigrants come to the US legally and go through a bunch of background checks, the right thing to do is to return to the country of birth irrespective whether they’re familiar with it or not and apply for legal entry. No excuses and no sympathy. Besides, why would they not want to go to their place of birth and help their country out?

      I’m sure if you go out and listen to the bums telling you their sob stories you’ll sympathize for a brief moment but at the end of the day you’ll realize they are mostly making excuses for their drinking, drugs and sheer laziness.

  • Those who have been in the U.S. for years also should have been working on obtaining citizenship to enhance their chances of living here. Sounds like a lot just sat on their okole’s.

  • Around the world children and adults are waiting patiently for years to decades for their USA Immigration/Green Card to be processed. To receive word they have been approved for legal immigration.

    Those who have willfully entered the country illegally and their weak of mind millennial backers think it is ok for these losers to jump the line, get in first.

    All illegals should be processed, placed at the back of the line and sent home. Told if they reenter the country illegally they will be permanently removed from the line, spend some time in jail, be sent back home.

    We have (to a point) a legal immigration process. Follow it or go back home for good.

  • Like I stated before regarding illegal immigrant questions;
    1. If I am a criminal what happens?
    Answer: You get a FREE BULLSEYE on your back which means your butt goes back to where you came from…or locked up.
    2. If I am honest what happens?
    Answer: You go back to the end of the line and lawfully process yourself.
    3. If I am honest & have been working here for a long period of time with a family, or am single, what happens?
    Answer: Your case will be reviewed and a reasonable response will be forthcoming.

  • Deport all illegal alien criminals first, with guaranteed prison time if caught in the US again. Then develop a stratified priority system on others here illegally. No more open borders.

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