Attorney, Carlos Alvarado, speaks to GOP about immigration.

April 24, 2018

Attorney, Carlos Alvarado, speaks to GOP about immigration.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — Immigration is a topic that has been on top of the national agenda for the past few years, especially illegal immigration. Last week, Ludington attorney Carlos Alvardo of Carlos Alvarado Law spoke to the Mason County Republican Executive Committee during tis regular meeting. Alvardo, who immigrated to the United States from Chile, is one of the few attorneys in this area that specializes in immigration law.

“For me, immigration as a lawyer is a reality,” Alvarado said. “I don’t question the ‘way’ or the ‘how’ the client has come here. What I focus on is solving the problem. They have a problem and I need to solve it legally, following the laws of this country. The rules that we have are, unfortunately, extremely confusing.”

Few of Alvarado’s clients live in Mason County. Several do reside in Oceana County and are farm workers. Many others reside in other parts of the country. He said modern technology allows him to represent clients across the country.

“Many of my clients have very little education and very little resources. Most of them are working on farms and they go about their businesses and ignore the big topic of being in violation of immigration laws.”

Alvarado said border crossing was much easier before the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The border was totally open and families would come here to places like Oceana County and work, and then leave. September 11 came and the border became harder and harder to cross. Many families decided to stay, and then they ended up extending their stay to a point where they became undocumented. Most of the families who came into the country to work, before 9/11, were able to cross the border, work here for a number of months and then go back in the winter.”

Alvarado said before 2001, local law enforcement paid little attention to a person’s immigration status and concentrated mostly on state laws.

“A person who was undocumented may have gotten pulled over and perhaps didn’t have a driver’s license. That person would get detained by local law enforcement, would go through the local justice system and then get released. There were typically no further consequences.”

Alvardo said since 2001, local law enforcement agencies tend to work closer with Immigration Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He added that one of the issues with the immigration court system is that the court process can take years. During that time, the person is often released on their own recognizance.

Transitioning an illegal immigrant to becoming a legal immigrant is one of Alvarado’s tasks. He said it’s not a simple task but it can be done.

“If they entered the country with some type of document, like a temporary visa, but later it expired, they are now undocumented. But, the fact remains that they entered the country legally. This is an advantage over someone who came in without any type of documents.”

Alvarado has represented clients from 28 countries, including Mexico, China, India, the Phillipines, Ukraine, Russia, and eastern Europe. Last year, he processed 34 permanent residency cases.

Alvarado talked about some of the temporary work visa programs that are common in the U.S. In this part of west Michigan, H2A, which is for agricultural workers, tends to be the most common.

“This program has been considered a good program,” Alvarado said, adding that both major political parties tend to support the program. “If you don’t have the workers to pick the crops, those farmers are going to suffer,” he said adding that last year Oceana County saw a 25 percent decrease in asparagus and cherry sales because there weren’t enough workers.

Alvarado said he also has worked with immigrants who fall under the H1B visa program, which is designed for skilled, speciality workers. He said only a limited number of those types of employees are available.

“Bottom line, is I am a lawyer and I deal with reality. That reality is not political and the immigration system needs to be fixed. I don’t have a solution. If you ask me, for lower skilled workers, we need a guest worker permit. It works in Canada, France and Germany.”

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