Advice for Undocumented Immigrants from a U.S. Congressman

Monday, 5 December 2011

A prominent Hispanic congressman, Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), recommends undocumented immigrants living in the United States to carry copies of documents that prove strong ties to their U.S. community.

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According to the congressman, carrying such documents as high school transcripts, marriage certificates to U.S. citizens, and U.S.-born children's birth certificates could help undocumented immigrants from being deported.

"The local cops are still going to get you for driving without a license, or not coming to a complete stop, or simply making up that your taillight was out," he said at a press conference. "But when they take you to Secretary [Janet] Napolitano's officers at ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], what should happen is that you should show them that you have strong ties and when they run your record and it shows you have no criminal history, you should be allowed to go free right there and then."

On his recent visits to South Carolina and Alabama, the Illinois congressman said that he has met many illegal immigrants who could have been released if they had showed the documents proving their longstanding ties to their U.S. communities.

Rep. Gutierrez) also gave an example on his advice to a man he met recently who was picked up in South Carolina for driving without a license and detained because he couldn't prove his U.S. immigration status.

"My suggestion is, Mr. Sanchez, the day he was pulled over, if he had his children's birth certificate, and his 8th grade graduation diploma to show when he arrived in the United States - all of those things would have helped", so told Gutierrez the detainee.

Gutierrez's advice originated from the so-called Morton Memo, issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton in June, which calls on ICE officers to exercise "prosecutorial discretion". For instance, special consideration is to be given to people who have lived in the U.S. for a considerable length of time, were brought to the country as a young child, received higher education in the U.S. , have served in the military, or have a parent, child or spouse with permanent residency in the U.S. or U.S. citizenship.

In the meantime, Gutierrez said that undocumented immigrants should be sure they can prove ties to the United States that might make them eligible for prosecutorial discretion. Under an Obama administration policy announced in August's immigration news, nearly 300,000 undocumented U.S. immigrants will hopefully be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely and to apply for U.S. work visas with the aim of closing those deemed low priority.

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