Highlights of 2012

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Immigration Highlights for 2012

By David M. Sperling


This past year was a watershed moment for immigration, with the crushing defeat of Gov. Romney in the presidential elections, which many analysts attributed to the Republicans’ hostile attitudes towards immigrants. I am certain we will never again hear a serious politician utter the word “self-deportation.”

The Obama administration introduced a DREAM-lite program and tweaked the regulations that will help legalize hundreds of thousands of other undocumented immigrants. This coming year promises to be filled with new, immigrant-friendly initiatives that will keep families together and bolster the U.S. economy.

For our law firm, also, it was the most successful year in our history. Thanks to our outstanding team of professionals, we were able to expand our services to the immigrant community. It would never have been possible without our loyal staff.

Hulda Mazariegos, one of the first DREAM Act poster kids, became a U.S. Citizen in early January, in a naturalization ceremony that was covered by Univision. Hulda is now our supervisory paralegal and will soon be headed to law school. (Check out our website at www.davidsperlinglaw.com for videos, blogs, tweets and other links.)

Lia Suntoso, who joined our firm one year ago, has done a tremendous job in widening our client base – to Indonesia and beyond, spearheading our employment-visa department, and fighting in the trenches at 26 Federal Plaza. I was very fortunate to be the guest of Lia and her family last June in Jakarta, an experience I will never forget. (While in Indonesia, I also visited Bali and met a wonderful family through my old law school dean, Howard Glickstein. I wrote the story of their amazing relationship for the recent issue of Touro Lawyer.)

Maurice Williams graduated from Touro Law, and passed the July Bar Exam on his first attempt. Way to go! Mauricio, as we call him, will soon be joining Lia in the trenches. Thanks also to Mauricio’s charming wife, Angie, their beautiful daughter, Amber Rose, and talented son Brandon for their many contributions to our firm’s growth.

A big shout-out to the other outstanding members of our team, without whom we would never succeed – or have so much fun in the process. Thank you, Flor Cruz, Laura Luna, Evelyn Henriquez, Yury Garces, Arlene Gulino, Paula Mazariegos, Chiquita Garces and Adrian Kreutzer.

Many of our team members joined me for the DREAM Cruise out of Nautical Mile in Freeport on my birthday, July 24th. We rented out a three-tiered yacht and invited our friends to join us as we literally launched the DMS Dream Foundation to provide college scholarships to beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program, while not conferring any permanent status, at least allows work authorization and protection from deportation for certain young people who came to the United States illegally at a young age. Our office was able to help nearly 300 Long Islanders gain temporary legal status and pursue their educational and professional dreams.

The cruise was a huge success, and we raised thousands of dollars for scholarships. (Our foundation expects to obtain its tax-exempt status shortly, and to continue raising funds for this very worthy purpose. Please join us for this summer’s cruise!)

We continue to advance in our goal of creating a paper-free office that provides instant responses to our growing clientele. With our new internal servers (no records lost in the “cloud”), and a powerful new case-management program, we will no longer have to physically search for clients’ files. What a relief!

The aforementioned DACA program validated my faith in our loyal clientele. With virtually no advertising, hundreds of young immigrants flocked to our offices to apply for this program. Most of them were children of former clients, or otherwise referred to us by “word of mouth” – the very best form of advertising. Over the past 18 years, our firm has developed the reputation as Long Island’s best immigration law firm. Clients trust us to give them a fair, honest and well-researched analysis of their legal options and zealous representation in their immigration cases.

In early December, I attended an immigration seminar in Washington as a representative of the American Jewish Committee. The attendees were not your typical immigrant advocates; they were religious leaders, business leaders and law-enforcement officials that tend to vote Republican. The seminar, sponsored by the National Immigration Forum, made it clear that immigration reform is an issue that benefits Americans from both sides of the political spectrum. What’s good for immigrants is good for the economy.

An initiative announced last January by President Obama will open a path to legal residency and eventual citizenship to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants married to U.S. Citizens. Spousal beneficiaries of this “stateside waiver” will no longer have to wait many months overseas, with no guarantee that they would be allowed to return to the United States. It appeared as a small tweak, but this regulatory shift will benefit hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

As ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) continues to refine its policy on “prosecutorial discretion,” we are hopeful that fewer families will be torn apart by deportations – which remain at a record level of approximately 400,000 per year.

ICE will continue to focus on high-priority targets such as violent criminals, terrorists, sexual offenders and “absconders” (individuals who did not leave pursuant to a deportation order). It will remain our mission to use all our legal and advocacy skills to zealously represent those individuals who have been unfairly caught in ICE’s dragnet.

With the growing realization by Republicans and others that immigrants represent our future, this will certainly be an interesting year. We may either be embarking on the path to common-sense immigration reform, or at least a series of new immigration initiatives that will benefit millions of legal and illegal immigrants. Fasten your seat belts.


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