Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Motion seeks dismissal of UC student's deportation case (The Marion Star)

Motion seeks dismissal of UC student's deportation case
10:29 AM, Jun. 2, 2011
Written by Mark Curnutte

HAMILTON - Elier Lara is concentrating on final exams this week and not worrying about his immigration status.

The University of Cincinnati honor student has learned that his attorney and the chief deputy counsel for the Department of Homeland Security filed a joint motion requesting dismissal of Lara's deportation case.

A federal immigration judge in Buffalo, N.Y., is expected to rule within a week to 10 days to grant the motion, which would give Lara deferred-action status. He then would be eligible for an employment authorization card and Social Security number, required for a driver's license.

Such status is renewable annually.

"I'm relieved," Lara said Wednesday morning from his family's rural Butler County home, where he was completing computer labs in preparation for a test. "I can focus on school, which took a hit during this ordeal."

Lara is another young, undocumented immigrant, brought to the United States as a child by parents or other relatives known collectively as Dreamers - from proposed Dream Act legislation that would give them a path toward legal status - to benefit from media coverage and other public exposure.

"Americans are decent people, Ohioans are very decent people, and when (the media) tell them what's happening to these students in their own backyard, they are able to see how dysfunctional our immigrations laws are and don't want these students deported," said Lynn Tramonte, a Cleveland native and deputy director of America's Voice, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports reform of immigration laws.

The Enquirer introduced readers to Lara on May 1, detailing how he had traveled legally to the United States at age 4 with his parents, who over-stayed their 180-day tourist visa.

Like many of the estimated 65,000 Dreamers who graduate annually from U.S. high schools, Lara made the most of his opportunities. Lara entered his current term at UC with a 3.8 GPA and will end his first year on campus with 78 credit hours as an information technology major. He started with 34 hours earned in advanced placement high school courses.

The 2010 graduate of Ross High School was arrested at Buffalo Niagara International Airport May 27, 2010, when he tried to board a flight to Cincinnati. He had been able to fly to Buffalo on a student identification card with a Ross teacher and three classmates for a national entrepreneurial competition.

U.S. Border Patrol agents plucked him from a security line when he could not produce a government-issued ID.

An immigration judge in Buffalo granted Lara a continuance at hearing May 20, the same day a video clip hit the Internet of Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., telling Lara's story on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

In the video, Durbin, a co-sponsor of initial Dream Act legislation in 2001, reintroduced the legislation May 11, held a poster-sized photo of Lara as he read from prepared remarks.

"Now can we use a person with those talents in America? You bet we can," Durbin said. "Look at American technology companies like Google, Yahoo, Intel and eBay. They were founded by immigrants to the United States. That could be Elier's future and part of America's future."

Within a week, the government lawyer in Buffalo received permission from superiors in Washington to file the joint motion to dismiss with defense attorney Matthew Kolken. They filed papers Friday.

"It embarrasses the government when these stories get out," Kolken said.

Even groups the want tighter immigration laws and more stringent enforcement say the attention garnered by media stories of illegal young immigrants is effective public relations.

"On one hand, the public wants enforcement, but when they see this kind of story, it tugs at their heartstrings," said Mark Krikorian, president of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. It opposes the Dream Act, saying its age allowances are too broad and add up to large-scale amnesty.

Granting a student like Lara deferred-action status is a chance for the government a chance to show "that we're not the bad guys," Krikorian said.

As for proponents of immigration reform, whom Krikorian calls "expansionists," such exceptions are small victories. "It gives them another bite at the apple and gives one more person their legal status," he said.

The Center for Immigration Studies wants the government to enforce immigration statutes without favor and reduce the number of undocumented immigrations living in this country, an estimated 12 million people.

"Once the population is greatly reduced, we could reach a point where we could have a conversation about amnesty," Krikorian said.

Advocates for reform, including Durbin and Tramonte of America's Voice, say the Dream Act is a perfect place to start to bring uniformity to immigration laws.

The most recent version of the Dream Act would apply only to immigrants brought to the country before age 16. They would have to have lived in the United States for more than five years and have to be under age 30 when the bill becomes law. A 10-year probationary period would need to be met before the granting of a green card.For Lara, legal status would give him the chance to get a job, drive and possibly get a break on tuition at UC. He pays about $25,000 a year as an international student, compared to about $10,000 for an Ohio resident.

"My focus is to get a job and finish school as quickly as I can," said Lara, who hopes to complete a bachelor's degree in 2½ years at UC.

He will help immigration reform and Dream Act passage efforts as time allows. He knows he benefited from widespread publicity, including Durbin's.

"It was pretty awesome," he said. "I was honored to have my story told on the Senate floor."

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