Even while the immigration programs created by President Obama via executive action languish in the courts, undocumented immigrants in New York are undergoing screening to see whether they would be eligible, with many finding that they might already be entitled to benefits and qualify for US visas.
“That by itself is game-changing, regardless of the lawsuit,” claims Nisha Agarwal, New York’s immigrant affairs commissioner. “Despite the injunction, we want to go forward and help families who think they might be eligible.” Almost 600 immigrants recently revealed their legal status – or lack of – at a legal screening that the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs hosted and around 54% of these discovered that they would probably qualify for the deferred action programs created by the president if the legal wrangles are finally resolved.
40% of the immigrants attending the event found that they might already qualify for a number of other types of relief, city officials claim. Although the information gained at the screening is only preliminary, should just 50% of those identified as being potentially eligible for other benefits actually get a green card then that would be an enormous potential, according to Allan Wernick, a Daily News columnist and law professor at Baruch College.
Wernick says the number is very large indeed given the amount of undocumented immigrants living in New York. “If you say 20% of them qualify for some kind of immigration benefit, if they could get legal status, that’s an astounding number,” he notes.