Immigration attorneys learn to navigate through changing policies

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) —President Joe Biden signed several immigration-related executive actions that would possibly create a pathway to citizenship for many. Immigration attorneys say the legal process for immigration can be stressful and difficult.

Immigration attorney Ana Villegas says she has been on a mission to help for six years.

“I fell in love with immigration law,” she said. “I knew that is where my calling was.”

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In the last few years, Villegas has seen a casework shift. She said she has seen fewer deportation hearings and more people applying for green cards and citizenship. 

“Because of Title 42, they are giving rule of order,” said Villegas. “They are expediting orders to everyone who shows up at the river. Sending them right back.”

Title 42 is an emergency rule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that allows U.S. immigration authorities to deport as soon as possible people detained for unauthorized entry at the border.

Immigration attorney Charlene D’cruz, who was part of the immigration system at a point in her life, said the process is tough, for anybody.

“I am fluent in English, I have an education and yet it was tough,” said D’Cruz. “Imagine people who are fleeing for their lives who don’t speak the language, it’s harder.”

D’Cruz has spent decades on the frontlines helping minorities in Minnesota and California. She has also been commuting to Mexico since 2019 to offer legal services. 

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“Walked across the border and opened an office in Matamoros at an old dentist’s office right by the camp, and started doing casework,” said D’Cruz.

D’Cruz said the change in administrations has made it difficult to have a streamlined process. 

“They changed with the Trump administration, it changes with our congressional seats,” said Immigration attorney Jorge De La Fuente.

“One day you can tell a potential client, yes you do qualify for this process,” said Villegas. “Literally calling them the next day saying we woke up to this new policy and you no longer qualify and breaking people’s hearts hopes and dreams.”

D’cruz said the pandemic has also slowed down the processing for people seeking citizenship and asylum. 

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“Not only did the pandemic stop asylum, but it twisted it dry,” said D’cruz. “People are desperate and are trying every means to get across.”

The Biden administration has reversed some of former president Trump’s policies. President Biden ordered a review of asylum processing at the U.S.-Mexico border and the immigration system.

“I understand it might take a few years but we’re hopeful,” said De La Fuente.

“It hasn’t gone far enough,” said Villegas. “We are still hoping it will go further and pass some sort of reform but I’m hoping for something to come,” said Villegas.

Some attorneys are working to help people who want to call America home, and they are also working to not be overwhelmed by despair.

“We help each other out and look out for one another,” said Supervising Attorney at ProBar Belia Pena. “We practice self-care.”

It is important for those that are looking to seek asylum or citizenship to consult with an immigration attorney.

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