Getting Ready for Executive Action: What an Undocumented Immigrant Should Do

The announcement is coming tonight!
The announcement is coming tonight!

UPDATED 11/20: The president’s anticipated announcement tonight of a new program for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States has led to CARECEN being flooded with phone calls in the last few days. Although most of the callers have a happy and calm anticipation of being able to apply for permission to work legally in the United States, a few are panicking over the need to secure legal services and get answers to their questions about the program.

Our staff is becoming overwhelmed. First, of course, we don’t know much about the particulars of the president’s announcement. Second, we are still analyzing what we do know. We also don’t have time to address each individual’s concerns one-on-one.

For undocumented immigrants who are wondering what they can do to get ready, here are a few suggestions.

First, until the president announces the program we cannot know who is eligible for it. That means that you should not pay a lawyer for help before the president’s announcement. And always remember, under no circumstances should you ever pay a notario for immigration law services.

Second, check to see where your passport is. You will almost certainly need a passport to apply, If your passport has expired, renew it. If you don’t have one, go to your consulate now and apply for it. Once the new program is announced the lines to apply for a passport will be long and slow. Taking the time to go to the consulate now will save you a lot of time later.

Third, if you have children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, make sure to get their birth certificates. If you are married, you may want to make sure you have a marriage certificate as well.

Fourth, if you were ever arrested, you will need to have a Certificate of Disposition explaining what happened to your case. Even if you were found “Not Guilty” you will need one of these for each time you were arrested.

Start saving your money.  The Homeland Security fee is likely to be over four hundred dollars. If you go to a private lawyer for help, expect to pay at least $500 more in legal fees. Non-profits will be cheaper, but most will charge at least some fee which may be several hundred dollars.

CARECEN will host a series of workshops offering free information about the president’s program starting next week. For more information, click here.

Finally, keep checking back at Long Island Wins for the latest and most accurate information on the new program.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.