New strategy in immigration cases

HOUSTON The change in policy brings with it a sense of relief among those in this country illegally who don't want to be separated from their family, but it also raises concern over whether the dismissals will lead to a new attitude among illegal immigrants no longer afraid of deportation.

The new policy is seen by some as a positive step.

Immigration attorney Gordon Quan said, "We had two cases already dismissed last week. We had another one dismissed yesterday. It's a large number of cases we have."

Quan says the policy is a chance to thin out overwhelmed immigration courts dealing with a backlog that according to court experts is over 20,000 cases waiting.

"If you go in for a hearing before an immigration judge, it will probably be a year and three months before your case will be called for a hearing," Quan explained.

Don't expect a blanket dismissal of cases. According to the Department of Homeland Security, illegal immigrants must meet certain criteria including having no criminal history as well as having ties to legal residents such as family members.

Yet the benefit seen by some is considered a detriment by others. In particular, there is concern among border patrol groups who believe the policy will encourage illegal crossings.

Larry Youngblood with the Texas Border Volunteers routinely travels to the border to observe illegal crossings.

"It adds incentives," Youngblood said. "We've seen it over and over. We decide not to enforce certain laws. It will lead to the downfall of our nation by picking and choosing which laws to enforce."

It's a touchy situation over at Catholic Charities, where an estimated 8,000 immigrants are helped. Clients inside shied away from our camera and didn't want to be interviewed. One immigration lawyer hopes the new policy will lead to other changes.

"What we're really needing is some sort of comprehensive change in the laws that would make it possible for people to get family visas more quickly," said immigration attorney Sister Veronica Shueler.

One legal immigrant at Catholic Charities told me off camera she's happy with the policy because it will keep her family intact. However, those whose cases are dismissed will not automatically receive work permits or Social Security numbers.

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