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Flawed California AB 60 Bill Restricts Immigrant Preparation

A False Equivalency: Immigration Client Preparation Is Not Immigration Fraud

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Recently, I discussed the importance of advance planning and preparation for immigrants. This need, rarely acknowledged by most immigrants or appreciated by immigrant advocates, can make a huge difference in winning or losing.

Rushing headlong towards disaster can often be prevented with a little prudence. On the other hand, carefully calculating the path to a green card, especially during an era highlighted with dubious reform promises, seems a more reasonable strategy.

Yet, in a society which increasingly treasures instant gratification, long term planning is disfavored. One needs to look no further than the California state legislature.

Under recent California legislation, Assembly Bill 60, immigration lawyers would be restricted from being able to realistically provide advice, conduct background research, and perform preparatory work for any immigrants who want to know if they will qualify under recently-announced executive actions known as Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Deferred Action For Parents Of Americans And Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), and the Expanded Provisional Waivers Of Unlawful Presence.

California Assembly Committee On Judiciary
AB 60 Bill Analysis, As Amended, January 9, 2015

In opposition to the bill, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) contends that the definition of immigration reform act services (which includes the phrase “services offered in connection with an immigration reform act . . . and other related initial processes”) is overly broad.

AILA contends that this broad language unnecessarily restricts immigration attorneys from gathering even basic background information to assess a client’s potential options (including, e.g. criminal background checks, USCIS client files, past court filings) regardless of whether immigration reform actually occurs.

Furthermore, according to AILA, “Refusing to allow immigration attorneys to do their jobs and obtain the documentation necessary to determine a client’s options places immigrants at a huge disadvantage legally and points them in the direction of the very people who take advantage of them -notarios, unlicensed document preparers and immigration consultants.”

 

In essence, AB 60 means I am not supposed to prepare clients for an uncertain future.

Presumably. the bill began as an effort to curb immigration fraud. Yet, it fails to distinguish rip-off scam artists from compassionate immigration defense lawyers. Instead, we’re lumped together and the core ideal of helping immigrants is sacrificed for political grandstanding.

Such behavior causes me to question who is really pushing this bill and why?

In sum, there is absolutely nothing wrong with planning ahead for immigration success.

Despite AB 60, I plan to continue advance planning with my clients, studying their immigration histories, and discussing their possible options. After all, my foremost duty is to protect the best interests of my clients, not the California legislature.

 

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