Right now, it is the winter of 2015 and immigration reform has been 'on the table' for more than 10 years. We had a client 10 years ago who's employer asked us to help her get status through her new US citizen husband. He told us that 'the sky is the limit,' in terms of his financial and emotional support for her. Her case required a waiver application and she had a good case. Instead, she was persuaded that immigration reform was going to happen immediately (10 years ago) and she decided to wait, without documentation. That is such a hard way to live. We have helped many avoid living in the shadows. These are our strategies:
DO's & DON'T's
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS . No matter what your status is here in the United States, you have rights.
If you were questioned by an immigration officer and allowed to enter when you first came to the United States, you may choose not to sign any papers for the government before consulting with an attorney.
**IF YOU'RE CHARGED WITH A CRIME, MAKE SURE YOU DIDN'T DO IT. AND IF YOU DIDN'T DO IT, DON'T PLEAD GUILTY. IF YOU'RE NOT SURE WHETHER YOU COMMITTED THE CRIME, THEN DON'T PLEAD GUILTY. BE SURE TO TALK WITH A GOOD IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY, EVEN IF YOU'RE PROMISED 'NO JAIL TIME' & EVEN IF YOU'RE TOLD 'THIS WON'T HURT YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS.
**ANYTHING YOU SAY TO A FEDERAL OR LOCAL OFFICER CAN BE USED TO INVESTIGATE YOUR STATUS AND PROCESS YOUR DEPORTATION (IF APPLICABLE)
**ANY PAPER YOU ARE ASKED TO SIGN WILL ALTER YOUR RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES. THE OFFICERS WON'T ALWAYS TELL YOU THE CONSEQUENCE OF SIGNING. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, CONTACT AN ATTORNEY.
**YOU THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY FROM MOMENT AN OFFICER BEGINS SPEAKING WITH YOU, BUT THE OFFICER DOES NOT HAVE TO TELL YOU UNTIL FAR INTO THE PROCESS, WHEN THEY OFFICIALLY BEGIN REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS.
WHAT TO DO . Guiding principles to remember as you're moving through the immigration system:
1. Most importantly, the government officials are here to help and usually do a very good job of it.
2. Only provide accurate information. Despite the helpful role of government officials, they are tasked with ascertaining your legal status and punishing you if you don't have 'papers.' They will ask you questions and lying to them is a crime. You are not required to say anything, which is recommended in most cases (unless you are at a checkpoint or a government office, like a USCIS office). If you opt to talk with officials, however, do not give false information.
3. Understand what you are asked to sign, in every aspect and everytime. Do not sign papers that you don't understand. If you asked to sign any papers, those papers will affect your rights to stay in the country. Do not sign unless you are absolutely sure what they mean and how they will affect your status, 100%. ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SIGNING.
4. Do everything you can to get 'legal' !
5. Do not violate your status by taking a job when you are not authorized to work or engaging in any other conduct that would violate your status. You can often 'change your status' to an employment visa if you are qualified.
6. Do not avoid applying for status because government officials are difficult. When you are qualified, then government officials are tasked with helping you get status. We have helped clients who have not gone back to their home countries because the Embassy officials may deny their new (or renewed) visa status. It is not the job of government officials to entrap you inside or outside the U.S. With the right information and documents, they will grant your visas and applications.
HOW TO GET 'LEGAL'
DON'T LIVE WITHOUT STATUS ANY LONGER THAN YOU HAVE TO !
THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO SAVE YOURSELF FROM DEPORTATION IN THE LAW AND ENFORCEMENT POLICIES AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW.
WE UPDATE THIS LIST OFTEN AND ANSWER QUESTIONS EVEN MORE OFTEN. FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US. HERE'S THE LIST:
BEFORE REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS:
GET NATURALIZED (!) . If you've been in the U.S. as a permanent resident status for at least five (5) years and you expect to stay here indefinitely (and may be a bit heartbroken to leave), make the push to get naturalized. Once you're naturalized, you can't be deported. You can be incarcerated (jail), but you can't be deported. If anyone in your family is eligible to be naturalized, it could help all family members if they go ahead and do it.
TPS OR DACA & THEN PERMANENT RESIDENCE . If you qualify for TPS or DACA AND you have an immediate relative who can sponsor you for permanent residence, it is possible you can leave the country on advance parole and re-enter with a legal entry. This allows individuals who entered without inspection (who avoided immigration officials when they entered) to get a 'legal entry' and apply for permanent residence. If you have been deported from the U.S. on earlier occassions or have criminal convictions, this could hurt your case dramatically. Consultation with an immigration attorney is crucial to executing this plan correctly.
ONCE YOU'RE IN REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS:
IF POSSIBLE, GET RESIDENT STATUS . Even if you are in removal proceedings, it is possible to apply for permanent residence if you have an 'immediate relative' who will sponsor you. In 1993, the Board of Immigration Appeals recognized in Matter of Gabryelskythat even in cases of aggravated felonies or other dfficulties, it is possible to adjust status to be a permanent resident, even while in proceedings.
you've completed high school or are currently in school (or have served in the military)
you have no felony convictions, serious misdemeanor conviction, or multiple misdemeanor convictions
and as of June 15, 2007 you were under 31 years of age, you have lived in the U.S. continually, and you did not have legal status.
PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION [GOVT. INFO]If you are charged with deportation, as of 2005, you can ask the government to review your case to see if it is really necessary to deport you or if it would a better use of govt. funds to dismiss your case for now.
This is special 'prosecutorial discretion' and is only given in unusual cases where there are no significant criminal issues, there are strong ties to the U.S. in terms of family, and other favorable factors about your case that make your case one that should not be acted on now (if ever). If we interview you, we'll find many factors about your case that put you in that category.
We've made successful application for prosecutorial discretion and were very happy the system worked in the favor of our clients.
SINGLE PARENTS OF U.S. CITIZEN CHILDREN [GOVT. INFO] If you are a single parent of U.S. citizen children, then the prosecutorial discretion described above is strongly in your favor and the government attorneys are instructed to treat your case very carefully. These cases often get close (administrative closure), but even then, the foreigner needs to make sure the case is closed in the right way so that s/he can get work authorization and driving privileges after its closed.
We've succesffuly closed cases under this policy, and were more than happy that the government's resources were used in ways much better than leaving children without their mother here in the U.S.
U VISAS FOR VICTIMS OF CRIMES IN THE U.S. [GOVT. INFO] If you were victim of a crime in the U.S. and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result, and if you have information about the criminal activity that you can use to help law enforcement, then it is possible to get status to stay in the U.S., regardless of your current status. U Visa holders are eligible for permanent residence within 3 years of receivingg status. If you have suffered a crime or violence at the hand of your spouse, you have several applications available to you. This U Visa measure is meant to reduce violent crime, so generally only crimes listed below qualify, including:
Abusive Sexual Contact
Female Genital Mutilation
Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
Obstruction of Justice
Unlawful Criminal Restraint
Other Related Crimes*†
PAROLE IN PLACE [GOVT. INFO] On November 15, 2013, the USCIS published policies re: granting of parole to persons who in the United States without permission from USCIS or ICE (often referred to as 'entry without inspection / EWI'). Per the 2013 policy, if someone who entered without inspection is a spous, childr or parent of a US citizen serving in the US military (or who previously served in the US military), they can receive immediate permission to remain in the U.S. This cures the 'entered without inspection' aspect of their status and they can apply to get permanent residence through their U.S. citizen family member. This 'works' when someone is already in deportation proceedings or before proceedings commence.
I-246 STAY OF REMOVAL [GOVT. INFO] The extraordinary is possible. Even after someone's been ordered removed, if s/he has financial or medical issues that would make it difficult for him/her to leave, they can apply to stay for up to one-year. For example, the person who has been ordered removed may be the primary caretaker for a sick or aging United States citizen or resident parent. The person would request a stay of her removal so she can have sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements for the care of her parent after her departure. Or, a stay application may request additional time to make financial arrangements for family members. For example, the financial breadwinner may request additional time, prior to his departure, to allow his spouse look for employment. Such request would be granted to allow the family time to prepare for the financial loss of the breadwinner. Some people are given stays of removal to attend special events, such as the high school or college graduations of their United States citizen children.
These 'stays' are highly discretionary. The govt. denies them much more often then are granted. For that and other reasons, we highly suggest attorney involvement in your application. The application must be submitted in person. We highly recommend those with standing removal orders not go to government offices without representation, if they have legal reason to stay in the U.S.