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April 27, 2006

Immigrants look for answers

From: Yarmouthport Register, MA - Apr 27, 2006

By Joe Burns/
Thursday, April 27, 2006

Monique graduated with a degree in graphic design from Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf in Washington D.C. But the only job the 26-year-old can get is as a nanny.

It isn't her disability that's holding her back, it's her lack of documentation. Monique, who came to this country from Brazil when she was eight years old, and has been here ever since, is one of many immigrants who've been stymied in their efforts to gain citizenship or work permits. Which is why she was one of 20 or 30 immigrants who came to the Hyannis office of the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and the Islands to hear attorney William Joyce of the Boston law firm Joyce & Associates speak about immigrant rights. The event was sponsored by Harmonic Outreach Project Educators, a Community Action program.

Joyce, a retired immigration judge, offered an overview of the current climate in America regarding immigrants. For starters, Joyce offered that the situation has become worse since 9/11 "and since the Republicans took the presidency." He also expressed concern about the House of Representatives' proposed "enforcement only" immigrant legislation, while holding out hope that the Senate version, which Joyce said "includes the mechanics to allow people to get a green card," will become part of the final legislation.

Dispelling myths, quelling fears and offering practical advice to those still seeking legal status, Joyce encouraged those in attendance to beware of frauds and inefficient representation.

"There's a lot of bad information on the street about what you're entitled to and not entitled to," Joyce warned. "There is no such thing as a 10-year law that says if you make it for 10 years you can stay," Joyce said, addressing a common belief.

He calmed fears of arrest, saying that: "anyone in the United States illegally can be arrested, but it's very unlikely if you stay out of trouble."

Providing specific answers to questions from the audience was sometimes difficult, because each case is unique and the number of possible situations seems endless. And the likelihood is that new legislation may change the rules.

Joyce attempted to answer questions that included: what should I do if Immigration comes to my house? (Answer: if they don't have a warrant you don't have to let them in. But don't try to leave by the back door; they'll have it covered.) Another question: If I can become a U.S. citizen, can I bring my parents here from Brazil? (Answer: it can take from a year to a year-and-a-half, but, yes you can.)

The questions, concerns, fears and hopes of those in attendance showed was but a sampling of what many people on the Cape are now experiencing.

"What's going on in this country is what's going on on Cape Cod," said Ingrid Muzy-Murray of Brewster, a social worker and a member of the Barnstable County Human Rights Commission and the Cape Cod Immigrant Center. "Immigrants are crying for help,"

© 2006 Yarmouthport Register