What am I eligible for? That is a very common question for many immigrants who call or visit our immigration office for legally advice. “I came into the country illegally,” how do I get a work permit or a green card? The truth is if you are in the United States and you do not have status and you did not enter after having been inspected and admitted or paroled, your immigration options can be quite limited. Our immigration laws changed dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s and one of the big changes was to punish people who entered the country illegally by greatly limiting their ability to stay in the U.S. legally.
There are five basic immigration options possibly open to you if you entered illegally and are currently out of status; 1) Asylum/Withholding/CAT; 2) U/T/S Visas; 3) 245(i) Adjustment; 4) Cancellation of Removal; 5) TPS.
At first blush, you may say, wow those are quite a few options, sounds great, how do I sign up. Therein lies the problem, most people who are in the United States without status after entering without inspection will not qualify for any of these forms of immigration relief. That’s right, unfortunately, just because you have been in the U.S. for many years, have family here, have a job here or have a fear of going back to your home country does not mean you qualify for any form of immigration relief. Lets briefly review what it takes to qualify for these immigration benefits/relief.
Last week, President Obama issued the first major change in U.S. immigration policy towards Cubans in over 20 years. On January 12, 2017, President Obama announced that the 1995 immigration policy designed specifically for Cuban nationals, known as “Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot”, would be abolished immediately. That means that Cuban nationals arriving at air, sea and land ports would now be subject to expedited removal (they were not previously) and that the Cuban government has agreed to review Cuban nationals with final orders of removal on a case by case basis to determine if they would allow them to be deported to Cuba. In addition, Cubans who arrive in the U.S. without visas and without having been admitted or paroled will not receive special parole consideration. They will be considered for parole like any other foreign national. Parole is the primary way that Cubans become eligible to adjust status in the U.S. and get their green cards.
This is a major, major change to how the U.S. government treats Cuban nationals coming to, or attempting to come to the United States. No longer will they be welcomed into the air, sea and land ports, automatically given parole into the U.S., and a year and day later, be allowed to apply for adjustment of status under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Just for background, the 1995 Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot Policy, enacted by President Clinton, restricted Cuban nationals, who would be paroled into the U.S. and allowed to apply for green cards, to those who actually made it to U.S. soil before immigration officers caught them. Previously, Cuban nationals caught on boats or rafts in the Florida Straits, on their way from Cuba to the U.S., were brought to the U.S. and paroled into the country, rather than being sent back to Cuba. Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot greatly limited the number of Cuban nationals who made it to the U.S.
Yes, absolutely and without a doubt, if you have a pending immigration case, an old immigration case you want to reopen or you are not a U.S. citizen and want to know about your immigration history, you need a FOIA and you need it now. Information is power and FOIA is information. The federal government loves to use acronyms to describe everything, whether its DHS, ICE, USCIS, CBP, LPR or USC, if you can break a phrase down into letters, Uncle Sam will do it. FOIA is just another example of that and stands for “Freedom of Information Act.” Knowing how to request one and having the right attorney review it could be the key to winning your immigration case or losing and getting deported.
When I worked for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we had unlimited access to data and the files of everyone who had an A-file (Alien file). We had vast networks of systems that compiled data on individuals in the U.S. who were born overseas or people deported from the U.S. who were trying to come back. If you know where to look, you could find a tremendous amount of information that could help immigrants trying to avoid deportation. However, most of the time, the government immigration attorneys, officers and agents would keep the information to themselves and often use it against the immigrants.
One of the greatest resources that the federal government has, as it relates to immigration, is information. This is not information that is public record like in criminal cases. Federal government immigration information is protected by a variety of privacy laws and policies. This means, usually, only the person that is the subject of the record can request it, and the government can hold back some of the information for a variety of reasons.
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.
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
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. https://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.
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.
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.
Congress recently passed legislation that changes who is eligible to enter the United States through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These changes are in reaction to the fears that terrorists and terrorist sympathizers will enter the United States exploiting the ease by which people can enter through the VWP.
The Visa Waiver Program was designed to allow citizens of certain countries to avoid the lengthy process by which most foreign nationals must apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. The normal process involves an application, a background check, an interview and sometimes more. Applications for short-term visitor or business visas are routinely denied. The Visa Waiver Program allows qualified citizens from 38 countries to avoid this process and with a quick online registration, obtain an electronic visa and admission into the United States for 90 days at a time.
This list of 38 countries changes often and usually only contains first-world countries that have low rates of people overstaying their visas, claiming asylum or otherwise abusing the visa process. Citizens from all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and parts of East Asia enjoy the use of Visa Waiver admissions.