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By David Sperling

The unthinkable is now reality: Donald Trump will be our 45th president.
What does this mean for Hispanic immigrants, who were the target of so much inflammatory rhetoric during the presidential campaign?

As some of you might recall, I wrote a column back in September of 2015 about this very topic, when almost no one believed that Trump would reach the White House.

My thoughts remain much the same. We need to distinguish between Trump’s divisive and intolerant rhetoric on the campaign trail, and what his administration will actually do. So far, in the selection of Cabinet officers, we have seen the triumph of pragmatism over ideology, a pattern I expect will continue.

We will have a much better idea once Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. During the campaign, Trump vowed to immediately terminate the DACA program for Dreamers. I believe he will wind down the program, but will honor work permits that are in the pipeline or will expire in the next two years. I am cautiously optimistic that the new administration and Republican-controlled Congress will help pass a real DREAM Act that will lead to permanent legal status for these deserving young people.

However, DACA beneficiaries should be prepared for any eventuality. They should expeditiously submit their renewal applications (no less than 3 months before expiration) and definitely consider obtaining a travel document as soon as possible.

Why a travel document? Most DACA beneficiaries from Latin America entered illegally with other family members. A travel document allows a DACA beneficiary to obtain a legal entry into the United States, opening up the possibility of getting a Green Card through marriage or some other familial relationship.

I also don’t expect Trump to quickly terminate Temporary Protected Status for Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Salvadorans. But I would also encourage TPS registrants to consult an immigration lawyer and consider filing for a travel document if they have not already made a legal entry into the United States. TPS registrants married to U.S. Citizens or the parents of adult (21 years or older) Citizens are eligible to obtain their Green Cards if they entered the country legally.

Undocumented immigrants, especially those who have lived in the United States for many years with no serious criminal record, should remain calm and consult a reputable immigration lawyer. There are many remedies that arise from laws or regulations that cannot be easily terminated. We also have a barely functional Immigration Court system, with more than 520,000 cases pending. A deportation case can take four years or longer to adjudicate, plenty of time to pursue alternate remedies or for American voters to elect a new president.


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