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Attorney joins immigrant rights organization
The Obama administration has already placed a two-year hold on deportation proceedings against young people who were brought illegally to this country as children.
President Obama has pledged immigration reform, and the issue is expected to come before Congress some time during his second term of office.
With these developments, American Beginnings, a Yuma nonprofit organization that for nearly three decades has helped people seek U.S. citizenship or legal residency, foresees a pivotal time for their clients.
To help them navigate the legal system on their way to new lives and opportunities, it has added to its staff Bianca Santorini, who has five years' experience as an immigration attorney.
Santorini will provide counseling as well as representation to Yuma-area clients seeking citizenship or permanent U.S. residency. She fills what American Beginnings calls a critical void in the area: the lack of an attorney dedicating full-time practice to immigration law.
“We've gone almost two years without an immigration attorney in Yuma,” said Fernando Quiroz, executive director of American Beginnings. “Attorney James Metcalf had been helping us (with clients), but he became a judge and we had no one to send people to for counseling.”
Santorini, a Texas native and graduate of Texas Southern University's law school, previously specialized in immigration law in Houston. Last year she relocated to Yuma with her husband, who serves in the Marine Corps.
Santorini says she joins American Beginnings in what is “an alliance to bring a more complete range of immigration services” to the Yuma area.
“I was surprised that there weren't many services of this type, and that seemed strange since we are so close to the border,” she said. “There are lots of notary publics who can fill out an (immigration) application, but not someone for people to consult to see if they qualify for an immigration program or benefit.
“At times (people) don't need full representation in court, just a legal consultation to see if they qualify or not, before they invest at times thousands of dollars in the (application) process.”
Quiroz and Santorini said American Beginnings plans to organize forums and other activities in the area to make people aware of opportunities presented them by the Obama administration's stay on deportations, known as Deferred Action, as well as pending immigration reform measures before Congress.