One DREAM Short

One DREAM Short

by Karol Brown and Sharon Underwood

Jorge-Alonso Chehade-Zegarra (known as Alonso to his friends) is one of thousands of young people working for the passage of the DREAM Act. But Alonso's situation is more dire and more desperate than these others--he is currently under ICE supervision. His only hope for remaining at his home in the United States is the passage of the DREAM Act or a private immigration bill.

Alonso is a twenty-three-year-old Peruvian national residing in Washington State. He has lived in the United States since the age of fourteen, when his family entered on visitor visas and remained. Alonso is what everyone agrees is a ''good kid.'' He has no criminal history. Alonso has studied hard and graduated with honors from high school. He earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington, without the assistance of federal student aid.

Alonso was detained by ICE after missing an exit on the freeway and mistakenly arriving at the US-Canadian border on a trip visiting friends. He was initially detained and granted voluntary departure by the Immigration Judge, as no other relief was available under current law. However, Alonso was intent on finding a solution to remain legally in the United States. He organized a campaign to halt his deportation and secured pro bono representation by attorneys Karol Brown and Shannon M. Underwood of Global Justice Law Group. They requested Deferred Action from Seattle DRO Neil Clark. Their request included an online petition with nearly 4,000 signatures, and a seventeen-inch stack of faxed support letters. While the request was being considered, Congressman Jim McDermott introduced a private bill, H.R. 3638, to grant permanent resident status to Alonso Chehade. Despite this amazing level of community support, DRO Clark denied the request. To add insult to injury, ICE issued a letter demanding that Alonso turn in his parents and two younger siblings.

With ongoing pressure from elected government officials, Alonso's removal has continued to be delayed. First, he was granted several one-month extensions after considerable lobbying efforts. Senator Maria Cantwell is considering the introduction of a private bill in the Senate on Alonso's behalf. She took up this cause after receiving letters of support from Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, state representatives and senators, and several community leaders. Most recently, on February 12, 2010, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced an indefinite delay of Alonso's removal. This announcement was the result of Senator Cantwell's personal request to Secretary Napolitano on Alonso's behalf.

Karol Brown and Shannon Underwood are now working with Congressman McDermott's office to push for a subcommittee vote on Alonso's private bill. This vote would automatically stay his departure order until Congress can pass the legislation. For a vote to occur, the House Judiciary Committee must refer the private bill to its Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims. Congressman McDermott must then submit specified documentation and request a hearing to the subcommittee. The subcommittee could then request a report on Alonso's case from the Department of Homeland Security. ICE policy provides for a stay of deportation when it receives this request from the House subcommittee chairman.n1

Alonso's only hope in remaining in the United States is the passage of a private bill or the passage of the DREAM Act in this year. A stay of removal would enable Alonso to continue his activism on the passage of the DREAM Act without fear of imminent removal from his home. This legislation would allow other deserving young people to remain in the United States. We encourage all immigration attorneys to use this case, and others like it, to raise awareness of the urgent need for immigration reform.

Alonso's case continues to attract local and national media focus, and draws attention to cases of similarly situated DREAM Act eligible students. Alonso has used this media attention to found ''DREAMers for Positive Change,'' a social networking site and blog that allows fellow DREAM Act-eligible youth to share their stories, coordinate with similarly situated young people, and advocate for passage of the DREAM Act. The site is available at The DREAM Act would legalize the status of young people with good moral character who have lived in the United States for at least five years and graduated from high school. The bill also would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996n2 to again permit states to recognize residency for in-state tuition purposes. The passage of the DREAM Act would enable tens of thousands of young people, like Alonso, to make the most of their lives, complete their educations, and become legal and contributing members of our community.



(n1)Footnote 1.  For more on private bills, see 6 Charles Gordon, Stanley Mailman & Stephen Yale-Loehr, Immigration Law and Procedure § 74.09, or Daniel Kowalski, Immigration Law and  Procedure: Desk Edition § 20.06

(n2)Footnote 2.  Division C of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997, Pub. L. No. 104-208, § 505, 110 Stat. 3009-672 (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1623).

Karol Brown and Shannon M. Underwood are partners in Global Justice Law Group, PLLC, of Seattle ( Karol has a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy   School of Government and a law degree from Yale Law School. She founded the Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Washington and Seattle University law schools, which enables law students to take on human rights projects for organizations throughout the world. Karol served as an attorney in a class action against DHS to prevent the deportation of over 3,000 individuals to Somalia. She has worked with the American Bar Association and the Center for Human Rights and Justice to study detention conditions in immigration facilities. She served on the Executive Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers of Washington. Karol has also worked as a Policy and Advocacy Director for Hate Free Zone Washington (now called OneAmerica). Shannon graduated from the University of Colorado School of Law. In law school she interned for non-profit immigration organizations including the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona and the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network in Colorado. After she graduated, Shannon worked for various private immigration law firms. Shannon's experience includes representation of clients in deportation proceedings, family and business nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing, protection under the Violence Against Women Act, religious visas, naturalization, asylum, TPS, NACARA, and appellate work.

[This is an excerpt from the April 15, 2010, issue of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin.]