I volunteer my legal services once per month at naturalization clinics, various chiurch immigration clinics or conducting training in front of community groups, consular corps, churches etc. See some of my misc. honors here. But I will not be volunteering for deferred action clinics. Why? Because deferred action applicants are making a mistake if they do not hire an immigration attorney to represent them to USCIS for deferred action.
#1: You will be dealing with USCIS for the next 10+ years of your life, do you really want to start that oft-abusive relationship without an attorney as your advocate? Anyone applying for deferred action will find this is the first of many, many applications/programs with which they will be involved. There will be renewals, successor programs, maybe a real DREAM act, advanced parole to travel outside of the U.S., possible adjustment of status or possible detention/bond and removal proceedings — to name just a few. This is the first small step of a decade or longer relationship with the immigration agencies. Sooner or later they will be hiring an immigration attorney to assist them in whatever step is next. Better to do it now and have a professional learn your history, safeguard your information, documents forms and applications for later use or reference.
If you had no experience in building homes & you knew you would eventually hire a professional builder to put up the walls, plumbing, roof etc. would you try to lay the cement foundation yourself to save a small amount of money? Sure, you probably could, but there is a reason that people hire professionals to do important work. And, beginning down the path of resolving your immigration problem is important work.
Further, what happens if the documentation you have is not enough or on the borderline? Who will follow-up with you to make sure you have the appropriate amount of evidence. What if USCIS makes a mistake (which happens in approx. 15% of the cases) and send you an RFE (Request for Evidence). Who will receive that? Who will follow-up with you?
The immigration services and immigration law in general is just too unforgiving to trust your life to everything going smoothly and being easy. There is no appeal, no second chance for denied deferred action applicants. Get it right or face possible detention and deportation.
#2: Maybe deferred action isn’t the best option for you but how will you know? Why apply for a temporary program like deferred action when there may be a path toward citizenship available for you. Have you ever shared your full history with an immigration attorney before or do you think everyone south of the border has the same facts/circumstances. Last year a client came to us hoping we could reopen a denied green card application from 15 years earlier. When I asked her how she came in she said “illegally.” Turns out she didn’t. She went through an inspection point and was waived through even though she had no visa. That’s a LEGAL entry and we got her a green card (see: http://goo.gl/rBxwr) Perhaps you were a victim of a crime and U or T visa would be better. Maybe you can receive NACARA or TPS benefits from your parent’s application. Maybe you are under 18 years old and have not yet incurred “unlawful presence;” you still may have other options available to you.
#3 Do you know enough immigration law to help your family? If not, then your family can’t be helped if you apply on your own but could be helped by an immigration attorney. Most immigration attorneys will want to review your entire immigration history, including that of your family members. During that investigation they might find options for other members of your family who are not covered by deferred action.
#4 You get what you pay for. If a notario, “immigration consultant” or attorney is offering you a real cheap rate, you can expect to get low service or maybe even scammed. Will they help you problem solve if your documents are insufficient? Will they make copies so you don’t lose the case if your documents are lost in the vast USCIS bureaucracy? There will be few things in your life more important then fixing your immigration status. Don’t roll the dice and gamble with your future to save a few hundred dollars. Use a professional, establish a relationship with that person and feel confident that s/he will be looking out for your best interests in the long term. Your relationship with your immigration expert should last longer than the day you hire him/her. You want someone whose goal is to move you from your current status of undocumented & get you all the way to U.S. Citizenship. Further, if you are scammed by a notorio or consultant, you have no remedy. You will like end up spending far more money than you ever anticipated saving and can — like thousands before you — end up in removal proceedings and be deported. But if a lawyer were to take advantage of you, not only can you go to the state bar, but often you can win your case that way. See a case we won like that (Notable case from August 2011).