Matthew I. Hirsch featured in the Times Herald for presentation
WEST NORRITON — Matthew I. Hirsch, an immigration lawyer representing his own firm, gave a presentation to students at the Norristown Area High School Thursday regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that was announced by President Barack Obama in June and took effect in August.
According to Hirsch, the DACA program offers a reprieve from deportation for certain young people who meet the criteria and was put in place by the president due to a standstill in Congress over the DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001.
To qualify for the program, applicants must have entered the United States prior to turning 16, be between the ages of 15-30, and have lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years as of June 15. Additionally, applicants must either currently be enrolled in school or earned a diploma or GED and cannot pose a threat to national security or public safety. Finally, applicants cannot have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or more than three misdemeanors.
Those who meet all the criteria will receive “deferred action,” which means that they will receive an employment authorization document that will allow them to obtain legal employment and a driver’s license and to apply for a Social Security number. Additionally, through the program, the government, which will not take the necessary actions towards deportation, will have the identity and address on record of those who receive the deferred action.
“Deferred action, as it has been announced today, is for two years,” said Hirsch. “I believe that after the two year period, there will be opportunities to renew.”
However, Hirsch emphasized that while the DACA program is a step towards citizenship, those who receive deferred action will have to continue the process to obtain legal citizenship.
“Having deferred action is not legal status,” Hirsch explained to the students. “It’s a partial step, but it gives you the first step towards other opportunities when you leave high school.”
To seek deferred action, applicants must submit Form I-821D, which may be found at www.uscis.gov, along with a $465 processing fee and all necessary paperwork to prove that the applicant meets all qualifications. However, Hirsch stressed that paperwork could be anything from bank receipts to a letter from school officials stating that the applicant has been or had been enrolled in the district prior to the deadline. Once the process begins, it generally takes approximately two months, according to Hirsch.
Since the program took effect on Aug. 15, Hirsch, whose firm specializes in U.S. immigration and nationality law, has given seven presentations similar to the one given at Norristown Area High School on Thursday, three of which were in Montgomery County with the other four in neighboring counties.
“I am an immigration lawyer in the community. I have mostly business clients but like all immigration lawyers, we feel a responsibility to educate the public on immigration issues,” he said when explaining why he began giving the presentations. “We want to get the word out about deferred action and we want to dispel misinformation that causes confusion and misunderstanding.”
According to Hirsch, educating people on the law is a necessity because America was built on immigration.
“Immigration is part of America. It’s part of who we are,” he said. “America has been a nation of immigration since its beginning and it still is. Immigration is part of America. It’s part of who we are.”