Keeping our Fingers Crossed for 2016

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This past year has been a year of great uncertainty for the immigrant community on Long Island, and across the nation.

President Obama’s much-heralded Executive Actions — which would have resulted in work authorization for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants — is virtually dead. While a legal challenges has blocked implementation of the programs, there is a possibility that the Supreme Court could take the case and reach a decision by June.

But growing anti-immigrant sentiment, sparked by radical Islam terrorism and fueled by fiery rhetoric by Donald Trump and others, makes it unlikely that we will see any immigration reform in the near future. Furthermore, even if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the president, the uncertainty of upcoming elections would have a chilling effect on the willingness of undocumented immigrants to emerge from the shadows.

Despite the uncertainly, other programs initiated or promoted by Obama offer the possibility of legalization to broad swaths of the undocumented immigrant population on Long Island, especially Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries.

The U.S. government has been forced to curtail its family detention policies, resulting in speedier release of mothers and young children.

Despite growing resistance in Nassau and Suffolk County Family Courts, a large majority of applicants for Special Immigration Juvenile status have obtained Green Cards. Undocumented spouses of U.S. Citizens now have a clear path to legal status, thanks for the president’s I-601A provisional waiver program. We can expect that program to be expanded shortly to include other family members of U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents.

Victims of crime, as well as battered spouses of Citizens and LPRs, also have a clear path to legal status. The U.S. government has also initiated a program to grant refugee status to some children of Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran parents residing in the United States with legal status.

Most of these programs require the assistance of an immigration expert. Unfortunately, there are many “estafadores” seeking to take advantage of confusion and uncertainty in the Hispanic community.

Much of the future depends on the outcome of presidential elections this November. Every vote is important, and a large Hispanic turnout may well determine who is the next president.

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