While there are no estimates for how many Rhode Island residents have been affected by a Texas court ruling halting the expansion of an immigration order from President Barack Obama, immigration attorneys at Dorcas International Institute in Providence say they are urging clients to begin the application process anyway.
The ruling affects people brought to the United States as children between 2007 and 2010. They would have been eligible to apply for protected status for the first time Wednesday, but the federal government has temporarily halted the program.
Carl Krueger, a staff attorney at Dorcas International Institute in Providence, said he had appointments on the books with several clients, who were looking forward to filing applications for legal status. He remained uncertain Tuesday about whether his clients would be able to proceed.
"So we’ve got people scheduled to start that and some of them have called in to find out if we’re going to go ahead or if we should postpone," Krueger said. "We are encouraging them to come in."
Krueger planned to meet with clients, saying there are many issues to work out, including eligibility for the expanded program and ensuring that clients have the necessary paperwork to file when applications become available.
While many advocates expected a battle over the expansion of the immigration program, Krueger said his clients will be disappointed by the delay.
"People are so anxious to take a step in the right direction. Nobody wants to be here illegally," Krueger said. "Even a small step in the right direction, getting a work permission, getting a social security number, maybe getting a social security number for one of your kids, it’s huge."
The Obama Administration plans to appeal the Texas court’s ruling, which may also delay another planned expansion to grant deportation protection to some parents of children who qualify for protected status.
The original program, created through executive action in 2012, granted work permits and protection from deportation for people brought to the U.S. as children prior to 2007.
According to Krueger, Dorcas International Institute has already helped at least 100 people apply for protected status through that program, which remains unaffected by the Texas ruling.
Immigration advocates estimate there are between 30,000 and 40,000 people living in Rhode Island without legal documentation.