Five Tips for Navigating Immigration-Related Legal Issues in Colorado
Colorado immigration attorneys share insightsBy Rachel Cernasky | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on December 21, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorneys Brad J. Hendrick, Hans C. Meyer, David A. Harston, Denise Hoffman White and David Lane
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- Insight 1: Avoid Notarios
- Insight 2: Avoid All-Purpose Lawyers
- Insight 3: You Must Carefully Plan for Naturalization
- Insight 4: Citizenship Status Impacts Access to Higher Education Benefits
- Insight 5: You Must Document Workplace Discrimination
- Find Experienced Legal Representation in the Immigration Process
Approximately one in eight workers in Colorado is an immigrant, constituting a vital part of the state’s economy and industry. A growing immigrant population in the state will mean an ever-widening range of legal needs for new residents related to immigration law, employment law, and civil rights.
Insight 1: Avoid Notarios
For starters, lawyers recommend avoiding so-called “notarios,” fraudulent legal consultants who claim to offer immigration-related legal services and advice to the Latino immigrant community without any training in the area.
Taking bad advice—filing inappropriate paperwork, for example—“can not only lead to a waste of money, but it can also set in motion a deportation or removal process that perhaps could have been avoided with competent legal advice,” says Brad Hendrick, an immigration attorney at Caplan and Earnest in Boulder.
Insight 2: Avoid All-Purpose Lawyers
All-purpose lawyers are another red flag. “It’s hard to dabble in immigration,” Hendrick says. He recommends finding an attorney focused on immigration, preferably a member of professional associations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association or the National Immigration Project.
“That doesn’t guarantee they’re going to be a good lawyer,” says Hans Meyer, founder of Meyer Law Office in Denver, which specializes in criminal defense of immigrants and immigration policy. “But it’s far more likely that they’re going to know what they’re doing.”
Insight 3: You Must Carefully Plan for Naturalization
“Just because you’ve been a lawful permanent resident for five years doesn’t mean you want to turn around and apply [to become a U.S. citizen],” says David Harston, managing partner at Palmer Polaski in Denver.
In evaluating eligibility, the government will examine everything about your residency, and if it thinks you did something wrong, Harston explains, it can move to take away residency.
Insight 4: Citizenship Status Impacts Access to Higher Education Benefits
Denise Hoffman White, managing partner at Hoffman Nies Dave & Meyer in Greenwood Village, says when it comes to higher education, the most prevalent issue is citizenship status. “For students who don’t know their status or need assistance determining their options, the National Immigration Law Center is a great starting point,” she says.
Undocumented young adults may be eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and temporary permission to remain in the United States, but this still does not make them eligible for government financial aid. Therefore, they cannot obtain grants or loans for college. However, many higher education institutions in Colorado grant DACA students the right to in-state tuition, but they have to pay from their own savings if they want to attend.
Note that as of September 2023, a federal judge in Texas ruled the DACA program unconstitutional. Current DACA recipients can renew their status to continue receiving protections, but new applicants won’t be able to apply unless the U.S. Supreme Court, on appeal, overturns the decision or Congress takes legislative action.
Insight 5: You Must Document Workplace Discrimination
In employment discrimination situations, says David Lane, partner at Killmer Lane in Denver, the most important thing is to gather evidence—even simple things like emails to human resources. “Get proof before it comes to a head. If it’s not in writing, it never happened. It’s extremely important that you not let the case get into your-word-versus-their-word.”
Advocacy groups that can help in such cases include the Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. “Don’t just take it,” says Lane. “I’ve seen it over and over: People are so beat down on the job, and they’re so afraid of losing their jobs, they don’t say anything.”
Because minorities are also more likely to come into contact with law enforcement and the criminal justice system—even when they have done nothing wrong—Meyer recommends they become involved in human rights, civil rights, and accountability organizations. That will help them get to know their civil rights and potentially have someone to call if they need help. “People can’t afford to have attorneys on standby,” he says. “The reality is: We need to be on top of our game in terms of understanding our constitutional rights.”
“[A case can] take on a life of its own, and if the public is with you, it gives a judge or prosecutor cover to do the right thing,” adds Lane.
Find Experienced Legal Representation in the Immigration Process
“In my experience,” says Harston, “the challenge often revolves around a general lack of understanding of our various systems,” from education and healthcare to government benefit agencies.
It can be daunting to navigate and receive equitable treatment within those statewide systems, but Harston advises people not to give up. “There are resources out there. Whether you find them through your workplace, your place of worship, or your kid’s school—they’re out there, and it’s important not to be afraid to engage with those services.”
Visit the Super Lawyers directory to find an experienced immigration lawyer in your area for legal assistance. For more information on this area of law, including adjustment of immigration status and the application process for obtaining a green card, see our immigration overview and related legal resources.
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