Why DREAMers should seek legal counsel for deferred action

This week in my column in La Opinión, I explain why undocumented young people, known as DREAMers, should consult with an immigration attorney before submitting a request for deferred action. It is not just a matter of filling out a form. There could be serious legal consequences if the request is submitted without reviewing the person's immigration history.

As a lawyer and an immigrant who came to this country as a child, I am angered by injustice and the taking of advantage of immigrants seeking a better life in this country. Therefore, I am concerned when notaries or others who are not authorized to give legal advice do things to the detriment of immigrants, and when misinformation about immigration issues is spread in the media.

The announcement that the government will implement a deferred action program for undocumented youth who meet a series of requirements offers hope to hundreds of thousands of DREAMers. But the reality is that not all will be eligible. I am alarmed by media reports that it is not necessary to hire a lawyer to apply or that no undocumented youth has the financial resources to cover the costs.

This is not true.

Many young people will be tempted to apply on their own, without consulting a lawyer. But sometimes, what seems easy can be complicated. For example, if a young person got into trouble with the law, even as a minor, or if he or she ever filed a petition for adjustment of status with erroneous or false information, he or she may be disqualified for deferred action.

Have you ever traveled outside the U.S.? How can you prove that you have lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007? Have you ever used a false identity or social security number, or documents of a family member to obtain an ID, a job or a driver's license?

Only an attorney or government accredited representative can give you legal advice and explain the consequences of your past actions on your current immigration case.

An attorney will analyze the person's situation and eligibility for deferred action and review his or her entire immigration history to see if there are risks in submitting the request. He or she will also evaluate whether there are other immigration options leading to permanent residency, since deferred action is a program that grants temporary relief.

If you file on your own and receive a notice from the government stating that the evidence submitted is insufficient, they deny your application, or ask you to appear in immigration court, you should act quickly and seek legal help.