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Immigration Lawyer Weighs In On Trump's Decision To End DACA


Our next guest has been busy since the Justice Department announcement that the government is ending the DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That Obama-era program allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. Congress now has six months to come up with its own version of the policy.


David Leopold has been fielding questions from those affected. He's an immigration lawyer based in Cleveland and a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He has filed DACA applications for a couple of dozen clients over the past five years, and he says the most common question he's getting is about something called advance parole. That's the name of a permit that allows noncitizens without visas to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad. When DACA holders ask him whether they should travel, he says no.

DAVID LEOPOLD: Ever since Donald Trump took the oath of office, my advice to DACA holders was not to travel on advance parole. I simply did not trust this administration, and there's been nothing that's happened in the past eight months that's changed my mind on that.

The reason is that advance parole becomes discretionary at the border. And even though somebody has a valid advance parole document, Customs and Border Protection at the border at the port of entry can deny entry. And, in fact, we did see that, you know, over the years a couple of different times. But clearly now the government has said that they will honor valid advance paroles on DACA. But they will not renew, or they will not issue any more advance paroles. So I think it's very dangerous to travel for somebody with DACA on advance parole.

SIEGEL: If somebody covered by DACA asks you, will I be deported now, what's your answer?

LEOPOLD: Well, my answer is really that it depends, and I know - you know, because each case is so different. Some people with DACA have already final removal orders, and they were issued DACA because they shouldn't be removed. That was the wrong thing to do. Well, President Trump, in removing DACA, has now exposed those young dreamers to deportation.

And what we are seeing since the president took the oath of office is that not only does ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not consider humanitarian factors, but it seems that this administration actually tries to make a point with some very sympathetic cases in deporting. We've seen mothers with children. We've seen fathers. We've seen taxpayers. We've seen employers. People get deported who are adding value to their community. So I expect nothing different with DREAMers from this administration.

SIEGEL: Most of the DREAMers are from Latin America, some from South Asia. Have you had any clients in this situation who were white Europeans?

LEOPOLD: Absolutely - one in particular from Germany, a case that was actually a very high-profile case 12 years ago. He became a DREAMer. He was a DREAMer. And because of DACA, he got married. He's got a child. He's got a wife and lives in western Ohio and is doing very well. And he's one of the people that will be affected by the cancellation of DACA.

SIEGEL: How could he still be affected by that? I mean wouldn't his marriage supersede whatever his status had been when he was covered by DACA?

LEOPOLD: No. The answer to that is because he did not last enter the country lawfully, he's ineligible to get a green card inside the United States. So because he's married to a U.S. citizen, he is eligible to apply for a green card even though he's undocumented. However, in order to actually get the green card, he'd have to travel to his home country, Germany, apply for the green card at the U.S. consulate.

And the problem he's got is that once he does that, they're going to tell him, well, you may be eligible for the green card, so come back and see us in 10 years because since you were in the United States without documents for over a year, you're barred from coming back to the United States for another decade. And I suppose in that situation, he could have a Skype relationship with his wife and child, but I don't think that that would be people's first choice.

SIEGEL: And that dilemma presents itself to him the moment that his most recent DACA certification expires, the moment that that two-year term ends.

LEOPOLD: Yes because it presents itself to him for a variety of reasons but most immediately because he loses his work authorization. And that's the basis of his job right now - also because he was in removal proceedings, and those could be reinstituted - the deportation proceedings. So he's in peril, and he's got a wife and child.

SIEGEL: You advised people who applied under DACA given what their status may be in March. Was applying for a program that had no legislative basis to it but rather was an executive action of President Obama's and vulnerable to being overturned by the next president - was it a mistake?

LEOPOLD: No, I don't think it was a mistake. It was a chance to come out of the shadows. It was a chance for DREAMers to give back to this country what this country has given to them, which they long to do. Many of them long to get into the U.S. armed forces, go to college, work, participate in their community. Was it a risk? Of course it was a risk.

SIEGEL: David Leopold is an immigration lawyer in Cleveland. He's with the firm Ulmer. Thanks for talking with us today.

LEOPOLD: It's been my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMAS BARFOD'S "HYPERION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.