Immigration lawyers talk to anxious Latinos in Camden

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Latino immigrants listen to lawyers Jeff DeCristofaro and Derek DeCosmo Dec. 4 at Saint Joseph Pro-Cathedral Parish in East Camden. The immigration attorneys addressed the audience’s fears in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency.
Photo by James A. McBride

In the days and weeks after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, Jeff DeCristofaro’s phone was ringing off the hook.

“People were genuinely afraid and concerned” for what his election means, the director of the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice said, describing the immigrants he interacts with on a daily basis.

President-elect Trump made the issue of immigration one of the foundations of his campaign. He promised to round up those in the country without legal permission and deport them, and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; he also talked about enacting a ban on Muslims entering the country until a system for what he called “extreme vetting” of refugees can be put in place.

All troubling to DeCristofaro’s clients. “Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been harsh,” he said.

To assuage these fears of immigrant families living and working in South Jersey, DeCristofaro, along with fellow immigration lawyer Derek DeCosmo, of Zucker, Steinberg & Wixted, addressed many of their concerns during a meeting at Saint Joseph Pro-Cathedral in East Camden on Dec. 4.

Right from the beginning, DeCristofaro assured them that “nothing has changed, because he’s not in office yet (until January). And as of yet, there are no clear policy proposals” that the President-elect has set forth, he said.

As well, any proposed law Trump puts forward in the future would have to pass through the hands of Congress, he said.

DeCristofaro said it is unclear what Trump intends to do with the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, or Dream Act, which President Obama began. Under this 2012 act, 700,000 youth brought illegally into the United States as children have been granted work permits, and have been protected from deportation.

Still, DeCristofaro and DeCosme promised those in attendance that their offices; the immigrants’ parish communities; and Catholic Charities would be sources of support and reliable information in the upcoming weeks and months.