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New Immigration Measures Neither Amnesty Nor Path To Work Permits


A major recent announcement by the Obama administration has raised the hopes of many undocumented immigrants. But some lawyers say it's still too early to tell if optimism is warranted.

— The new Obama Administration policy on prosecutorial discretion grants officials and arresting officers the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether an undocumented immigrant should stay in the country or be deported.

Many immigrants and their advocates see the change as the path to legalization and a work permit, while opponents say it is basically a back door amnesty.

But Lilia Velasquez, an immigration attorney based in San Diego, would disagree with both interpretations. Since the announcement was made last week, she has been warning dozens of clients who call her office not to count on the new policy as a path to permanence here.

"In terms of getting a document that says that they're legal, a work permit? No, that's not what the measure means," said Velasquez. "I tell my clients, 'let's wait for this policy to develop,' because that's what they're trying to do right now, set a criteria under which those cases will be reviewed. So we're still in the planning stages."

Many other immigration lawyers across the country are reporting a rise in legalization requests from undocumented immigrants eager to get their status normalized. Attorneys like Velasquez are advising clients to avoid arrest, even if they think it will get them in front of a judge faster.

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