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President-Elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017. Its a safe bet that he will get to work immediately on his agenda and campaign promises to undo as much of President Obama’s immigration executive actions as possible.

While Trump has made many promises regarding immigration, many will take an act of Congress to accomplish. These promises (the Wall, legal immigration reform, and others) will take time and will not happen immediately. Other promises will take another country agreeing to them to happen (making Cuba and other countries take back their deportees), therefore they may never happen and certainly won’t happen next January.

There are a few immigration actions that President Trump can, and probably will, take immediately after taking office. These are the actions that immigrants should be immediately aware of and on which they should take action as soon as possible to reduce the negative consequences against them and their families.

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In case you have not heard, in what can only be called one of the biggest upsets in U.S. presidential election history, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton this morning and is now the President-Elect of the United States. As an immigration attorney, many of my clients and prospective clients have been worried about this day for over a year. They have asked me, what happens to immigrants if Trump is elected president? Will I be deported, will they deny my application for citizenship or for a green card? Will I be detained, will they take away my immigration status?

While I mistakenly assured my clients for months that he was not going to win, as any good attorney would, I contemplated the impacts of each candidate’s victory on my current and future clients. In addition, I thought about the other immigration player post-election, that being a lame-duck President Obama, who, depending on who won the election, might take two completely different approaches to immigration in his last months in office.

So on to what would happen with a president Hillary Clinton? The 2014 Jeh Johnson Prosecutorial Discretion Memo would likely remain intact and might have even been expanded. DACA would stay in place and Hillary assured everyone she would try to push through expanded DACA and DAPA again. There would be no wall on the Southwest Border and the acceptance of refugees from the Middle East would continue, or even grow from current numbers. She also pledged to push through comprehensive immigration reform

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If you are a lawful permanent resident and you want to become a U.S. citizen, congratulations, you have made a wise decision. Becoming a U.S. citizen as soon as you are eligible is almost always the right choice for every lawful permanent resident. Becoming a citizen means no more renewing your green card, no more waiting in the longer line at Customs on the way back into the country and no more worrying about losing your status and getting deported.

Now that you have made the decision to apply for your citizenship, you must now determine if you are eligible. To apply for citizenship, you would use a form called an N-400 Application for Naturalization. The law on citizenship requires that an applicant meet the following criteria:

  • has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (three years if you obtained your green card through a U.S. citizen spouse and are still married);
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Congratulations! You recently got married and your new spouse is a U.S. citizen, but you are not. One of the first questions on your mind may be: how do I get my green card now that I am married to a citizen? The answer could be fairly simple—or quite complex. No matter what your situation, if you marry a U.S. citizen and want to adjust your status (become a lawful permanent resident) go see an experienced and trusted immigration attorney for a consultation. http://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/john-gihon.html

Many experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorneys may charge you a nominal fee for the consultation, but it is definitely worth it. Remember the old saying, “you get what you pay for,” well that is usually the case with free advice from attorneys. An attorney who charges you a consultation fee will likely spend more time preparing for and with you during the consultation. An attorney who gives you a free consultation may not want to spend anymore time with you or talking to you then they have too, remember, an attorney’s time and knowledge is their money.

Now back to how to try and get your green card now that you are married to a U.S. citizen. My guidance will start with the premise that you and your new spouse married for love and not solely for an immigration benefit—this is not a “how to engage in marriage fraud” piece. Still, be sure to document your new life together, or as we say in the field, gather evidence that you have “co-mingled” your lives. That means if you have not already open a joint bank account that you will put money into and use for marital expenses, do it now. Add each other to car insurance, life insurance, health, dental, vision insurance and retirement accounts. If you buy a house or apartment or condo, make sure both of your names are on the deed and mortgage. If you rent, make sure your existing lease is amended to add your spouse and any new lease has both of your names on it. Add your spouse to your credit cards or open new ones in both names. If you have utility, cable, and cell phone bills, add your spouse’s name. Every piece of paper, bill, or invoice that you can produce, post-marriage, that has both of your names and your marital address on it, will go a long way to convincing the immigration officers that your marriage is real and not solely for immigration purposes.

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If you are not a United States citizen and you registered to vote, you could face criminal charges, denial of immigration benefits and even deportation from the country. These possibilities get even worse if you actually voted in an election.

There are federal and state laws that prohibit people who are not eligible to vote (usually non-citizen immigrants) from registering to vote and voting. It is a federal crime for a non-citizen immigrant to vote in a federal election. If you are not a citizen, you can be prosecuted, sent to prison and deported for voting in a federal election, even if you did not know you were not allowed to vote.

The very act of registering to vote requires that a person certify that they are a United States citizen and eligible to vote. Anyone who registers to vote and is not a citizen, has likely made what is known as a false claim to citizenship. A false claim to citizenship can stick with a non-citizen forever and stop someone from getting a green card, getting citizenship and can even lead to detention an deportation from the United States.

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Many people come to the United States to visit friends and family, to work, go to school, or just as tourists. However, some people come to the United States fleeing persecution, abuse or torture in their home countries. Many unfortunate souls are forced to flee their homelands to save themselves and their families; they come to the United States for refuge. Many people flee their home countries and then apply for refugee status outside of the United States. This is what is going on with thousands of Syrian refugees right now. These victims of the Syrian civil war have been forced to flee Syria and have applied for refugee status to come to the United States (and other countries). These refugee applicants are vetted for honesty, have their backgrounds checked and if they meet the definition of “refugee” according to our immigration laws, they can be given safe passage to the United States and resettled here as refugees.

But what about people who are already in the United States as tourists, students or just here, and they are afraid to go home because they will be targeted for persecution? The bad news is, if you are already here in the United States, you cannot apply for refugee status. The good news is, you can apply for asylum, which is in essence, the same thing as applying as a refugee abroad. If your asylum application is granted, you will be given asylee status and allowed to stay in the United States. After one year, you can apply for your green card (lawful permanent residence).

How do I apply for asylum if I am here in the United States you ask? Its complicated, but there are a few important things to remember when you are here in the United States and are afraid to return to your home country and therefore thinking about applying for asylum. First, go see an experienced and trusted immigration attorney who handles asylum cases. Do not go see a notario or paralegal or that guy in your neighborhood who applied for asylum. There is no replacement for competent and correct legal advice when it comes to you and your family’s future and safety. Before and after you consult with an immigration attorney, here are a few other things to remember.

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This is a very common question we receive all the time, “How do I get my fiancé a visa to come to the United States?” Should my fiancé come over on a visitor visa and then we will get married? Should I file a fiancé visa for her to come over and then we get married? These are all very good questions, and the answers very much depend on the facts surrounding each case.

Lets start with a brief overview of United States visas available for domestic relationships. If a U.S. citizen is married to someone who is not a citizen, the U.S. citizen can file an I-130 Petition for their spouse, which if approved, will provide the spouse with a visa and an opportunity to apply for a green card immediately. If a lawful permanent resident is married to someone who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident, the process is the same, but once the I-130 is approved, there will be a wait of potentially several years before the spouse can apply for their green card.

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and your fiancé lives in another country, sorry but you are out of luck. There is no visa available for the fiancé of a lawful permanent resident. You will either to apply to become a citizen and then file for a fiancé visa, or you will have to get married before you file the I-130 for your spouse.

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Claiming to a United States citizen when you are not one may not appear to be that horrible of an act, but under immigration law, it is one of the worst things you can do as a non-citizen. Falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen for almost any reason, can lead to a permanent denial of lawful permanent residence (a green card), a denial of your Application of Naturalization (citizenship), you can be detained and put in immigration removal proceedings, denied other forms of immigration relief and ultimately deported. Yes, that’s right, unless and until you are a U.S. citizen, you should never tell anyone you are a U.S. citizen for any reason.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, the circumstances that you may claim to be a citizen can vary. Most people who get in trouble for claiming to be a U.S. citizen did so in the context of registering to vote or when filling out the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. Others may have claimed to be a citizen to obtain federal benefits such as student loans, a home mortgage, Medicare, Medicaid or food stamps. Some people falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen so that they can get a U.S. passport. This is not only something that can get you deported, its also a federal crime. Some people falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen to avoid being deported when they are interviewed by immigration officers at the U.S. border or when arrested on a criminal offense.

Regardless of the circumstances under which a non-citizen claims to be a U.S. citizen, the penalties and consequences are severe-the U.S. government takes false claims very seriously.

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Anyone who follows immigration news or politics has probably heard that late last month, the Supreme Court in a 4-4 tie, left in place the lower court’s order freezing DAPA and expanded DACA. What this means is that for the rest of President Obama’s term, there will be no Deferred Action for Parents of Americans or an expansion of the already-in-place Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program begun in 2012.

This does not mean that DAPA and expanded DACA are dead; rather, it means that the Supreme Court has not yet decided if any president has the authority to create and administer expansive immigration policy measures like these. Obviously, if a candidate who does not support DAPA and DACA wins the White House, these programs will never see the light of day. If a candidate who supports these measures or even more ambitious measure reaches the White House, we can expect that we will see a new push for DAPA and DACA or programs like them in 2017.

These programs are not the only way that people in the United States without a lawful immigration status can seek immigration relief. There is always prosecutorial discretion, stays of removal, temporary protected status, asylum, withholding, and cancellation of removal, among others.

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Over the last two months the Board of Immigration Appeals has released a handful of new published decisions. I have summarized them and provided my insight into what the cases mean for the immigration practitioner. Also, since my last post on the case of Maxi Sopo there has been a very interesting interpretation of the ruling. In my blog on that case http://www.floridaimmigrationlawyerblog.com/2016/06/eleventh_circuit_court_of_appe_1.html, I interpreted the decision to require that immigration attorneys who wished to have a bond hearing when their clients were detained for more than six months pre-final order, would have to go to federal court with a habeas action first. However, that is not how the ACLU interpreted the case and not how it is playing out in court. The ACLU practice advisory says that immigration attorneys who believe their clients have been detained unreasonably long, pre-final order, can file their bond motions directly with the immigration courts. https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/practice-advisory-prolonged-mandatory-detention-and-bond-eligibility-eleventh-circuit. That is a huge time and cost saver for clients. The ramifications of the Sopo case are still shaking out in practice, so I will try and keep you posted on what happens in the filed going forward.

Now, back to the summaries of the published BIA cases for the last few months:

Matter of Gonzalez Romo, 26 I&N Dec. 743 (BIA 2016):