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Immigrants in Maine's Schools:  An Overview of Immigration Law and Other Issues Affecting Students and Families. Beth Stickney, Esq. Executive Director, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project November 22, 2010 Maine Department of Education ESL/Bilingual Programs

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Immigrants in Maine's Schools:  An Overview of Immigration Law and Other Issues Affecting Students and Families

Beth Stickney, Esq.

Executive Director,

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

November 22, 2010

Maine Department of Education ESL/Bilingual Programs

Professional development online webinar

ILAP is Maine’s only statewide nonprofit

provider of free & low-fee comprehensive

immigration law and related legal aid

  • Office is in Portland; satellite hours in

Lewiston; toll-free access for Mainers far

from Portland at 800-497-8505

  • Intake on Fridays 9 – 1. More information


who are maine s immigrants
Who Are Maine’s Immigrants?
  • Each year, ILAP serves immigrants from

over 100 countries of origin, now living in

all 16 Maine counties

  • Refugees are a small percentage of all

immigrants in Maine

  • Maine likely has more Latin Americans

than Africans

  • Census 2010 numbers will likely greatly

undercount Maine’s immigrants

Maine’s immigrant population - 2008
  • In 2008, 3.0 percent of Maine's total population were foreign-born (or immigrants), compared to 2.9 percent in 2000 and 3.0 percent in 1990.

At the national level, the foreign-born population represented 12.5 percent of the total population in 2008, compared to 11.1 percent in 2000 and 7.9 percent in 1990.

  • Between 2000 and 2008, the foreign-born population (or immigrants) of Maine changed from 36,691 to 39,378, an increase of 7.3 percent.

In comparison, between 1990 and 2000, the foreign-born population changed from 36,296 to 36,691, an increase of 1.1 percent.

At the national level, between 1990 and 2000 the foreign-born population increased by 57.4 percent, and between 2000 and 2008 increased by 22.0 percent.

  • 56.7% of immigrants (or 22,315 people) in Maine were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2008—meaning that they are eligible to vote. More than four in five (or 84%) of children in Maine’s immigrant families were U.S. citizens in 2007.

Migration Policy Institute/MPI Data Hub: MAINE Social & Demographic Characteristics

Immigration Policy Center / American Immigration Council

what legal statuses do immigrants in maine have
What Legal Statuses do Immigrantsin Maine have?
  • There are dozens upon dozens of

immigration statuses

  • All children have the Constitutional

right to attend K-12 public schools,

regardless of immigration status

  • Just a few of the myriad immigration

statuses will be described here

immigration statuses
Immigration Statuses
  • Undocumented (no visa, or violated visa)
  • Nonimmigrant (temporary visa)
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Application for permanent status pending

(may have or be eligible for a “work permit”)

  • Petition for residency pending (no work permit)
  • Refugee or Asylee
  • Parolee
  • Permanent resident (2 or 10 year “green

card”- residency card)

  • Naturalized U.S. citizen
  • Includes persons who entered without a visa, with a

fraudulent document, or with a nonimmigrant visa but

then stayed too long, or otherwise didn’t comply

w/visa. May or may not be in removal proceedings.

Often in “mixed status” households – spouse is

resident or citizen, has US citizen children, etc.

  • Concerns: How to get legal status / a work permit
  • Worry about being detected by Immigration

Authorities (ICE/CBP)

  • Worry about getting employers, household members

in trouble

  • If have children, worry that signing children up for

benefits the children are entitled to will cause

immigration problems (detection/denial of residency)


Includes tourists, students, temporary

workers. Concerns include:

  • How to extend their stay
  • How to get a work permit (unrestricted)
  • How to get permanent residency
  • F-1 students in public schools – can only attend one

year, and must pay tuition. If host family takes

guardianship so that student can attend w/o paying,

student will be barred for 5 years from extending or

receiving another visa (so could not, for example, get F-1

to attend US university for 5 years)

tps holders
TPS Holders

TPS allows certain people to stay and work in the

U.S. due to natural or civil crises in their home

countries. Usually have work permits.

  • Concerns include: How to get family here
  • How to get permanent residency
  • Will receiving government benefits affect their

ability to become permanent residents

  • Currently in Maine, many Hondurans,

Salvadorans, and some Haitians, Somalis and

Sudanese have TPS

applicants for permanent status
Applicants for permanent status

Includes persons applying for asylum, persons

applying for permanent residency. May be in

removal proceedings. Concerns include:

  • Whether their cases will be denied
  • Whether they have enough income to be

approved for residency

  • Whether they are putting their US citizen or

resident family members at risk

  • Whether their family members abroad are

safe, and whether and when they’ll be able to

be together again

petitions pending for residency
Petitions pending for residency

Includes spouses and children of permanent residents,

married or over 21 year old children, and siblings of

U.S. citizens. Also sometimes employees petitioned

for by their employers.

Concerns include:

  • Can they get work permit
  • Will they be found and deported before they can


  • Whether they are putting their US citizen or resident

family members at risk

  • Will they have complications once they are eligible to

start the final paperwork to immigrate – including,

does their family earn enough money – must earn

125% of the federal poverty guidelines.

refugees and asylees
Refugees and Asylees

Refugees apply for protection from outside the

U.S. Asylees do so from inside the U.S.

Concerns include:

  • For refugees and asylees: how to be reunited

with/safety of, family members abroad

  • For asylees: can they get work permit
  • For asylees: will their application be denied
  • For both: how to get residency
  • For both: how to be reunited w/ spouses,

children, other family members

  • For asylees: what happens if there’s divorce

before residency granted


“Parolees” are people who don’t qualify for other

visas but are let in for humanitarian or national

interest reasons. Parolees in Maine sometimes

have status similar to refugees, or another status

altogether, but in any case can stay here as long

as parole status is unexpired and no other laws

are violated. Concerns include:

  • how to get residency
  • concerns for family members left behind
  • public benefits eligibility (some are paroled in for

medical treatment, but need to survive between


permanent residents
Permanent residents

May have gained residency through a variety of

ways. Concerns include:

  • How to get other immediate family members


  • Will public benefits affect ability to help family

immigrate, or to become a US citizen

  • How to become a citizen
  • If permanent resident through marriage to a

US citizen, what impact will separation or

divorce have on status (especially immigrants

in domestic violence situations)

naturalized u s citizens
Naturalized U.S. citizens

Generally, a person is eligible to apply for

naturalization to U.S. citizenship if s/he:

  • Is over 18
  • has had residency for 5 years
  • has good moral character
  • can speak, read and write English
  • can pass a test of understanding of US history

and civics

  • some exceptions are available for the

English/history requirement.

how do people immigrate
How do people immigrate?

There are 4 general ways that people can

immigrate (get permanent residency) to the U.S.:

  • Through a grant of refugee or asylee status
  • Through immediate family members (residents can file

for spouses and unmarried offspring; citizens can

additionally file for married offspring, parents and

siblings) – long waiting lists apply for most relatives

  • Through employers (professional level employment)
  • Through the “Visa Lottery” – 50,000 visas each year

available to individuals with at least a high school

education or skilled trade – one computerized entry

allowed each year.

barriers to immigration
Barriers to immigration
  • Endless background checks
  • Law is biased against low-income people

(threshold income must be proven by U.S.

citizens or residents who want their

spouses/children etc. to immigrate)

  • Lack of documents to prove relationships (for

example, no birth certificates are available from

Somalia to prove a parent/child relationship)

  • Lack of money to pay for air fare to bring family

from abroad

  • Many others
global concerns for immigrant families
Global Concerns for Immigrant Families
  • Family reunification
  • Jobs, school, living conditions, money,

supporting family abroad etc.

  • Impact of contact with the criminal justice

system on immigration status (especially

parents concerned about their children

getting into trouble)

  • Domestic violence issues
  • Public benefits eligibility – accessing benefits

during hard times; not being cut off due to

welfare reform laws

special concerns for immigrant students
Special Concerns for Immigrant Students
  • If undocumented: How attend college? (legal status not

required to attend, but can’t qualify for federal financial

aid if undocumented)

  • Racial profiling: In Maine, people of color are frequently

stopped by police and asked for their immigration papers

  • Students should be encouraged to take charge of their

own immigration status – if they are in a status that

leads to citizenship eligibility, usually much easier for

them to become citizens than their parents because they

learn English more quickly etc. (but should NOT file

anything with Immigration if they’ve ever been had

contact with Police, until they’ve consulted an

immigration lawyer)

tips for k 12 educators
Tips for K-12 Educators
  • Never ask for immigration status (unless

there’s a grant that requires it)

  • Never exclude an immigrant child from

school based on concern about

immigration status (unconstitutional)

  • Cont’d…
tips for k 12 educators cont d
Tips for K-12 Educators, cont’d
  • If a host family of a foreign exchange student asks whether the

student could attend for free if they take legal guardianship of the

student, advise them to consult with an experienced immigration

lawyer immediately (they could seriously prejudice the student by

doing this)

  • Do not fill out immigration forms for immigrant parents or students,

even if you have become close to a family. Immigration applications

are far more complicated than just the questions on the forms


  • Refer families with immigration issues or questions to ILAP (our

services are free or low-fee depending on income). If a family is

above ILAP’s income guidelines, we can refer to competent

attorneys. See for our intake hours.

  • If a family wants you to talk to us about them, have them sign a

release giving us permission to talk with you about them. We will

need you to fax this to us for our records.

  • with any questions about immigration or

related issues

  • ILAP

309 Cumberland Avenue, Suite 201

PO Box 17917, Portland, ME 04112

780-1593 or 800-947-8505

Intake of new clients: Fridays 9:00-1:00,

In-person or by phone.

Thank you