Donald Trump is the United States’ President Elect: Do Not Be Afraid About Your Immigration Status, Be Proactive!
By: Nicole Abruzzo Hemrick, Esq.
This has been a very difficult year for immigrants, their families and those of us who are passionate about serving the immigrant community. In June we learned President Obama’s Executive Order, which included Deferred Action for Parents (“DAPA”), would not be implemented. We hoped a new administration would bring positive changes, but one week ago we learned Donald Trump, who has made extreme statements against immigration, won the presidency. This is not the time to be afraid but to be proactive.
First, before getting nervous, we must remember we do not know President Elect Donald Trump’s exact plans, if a bill will be introduced regarding immigration law, whether Congress would agree upon an immigration bill, and if so, when the bill would be implemented. This means that a lot has to occur before anything will change, and you still have time right now to do something positive about your immigration case. Second, even if the laws and attitudes about immigration take a negative turn, this is nothing new—following September 11, 2001, many immigrants (particularly those practicing the Islamic faith) were rounded up and subjected to extensive screening, but immigration attorneys and organizations fought back putting an end to these sweeps, and we at Spar & Bernstein, P.C. are ready to zealously fight to protect our clients. If you are found to be in the United States without status, unless you have a prior removal or deportation order, immigration officials CANNOT put you on an airplane and send you back to your home country right away because the U.S. Constitution provides that EVEN NONCITIZENS must be given a full and fair hearing in front of a judge and have a right to present evidence in defense of their removal. Third, today’s immigration officers and Department of Homeland Security attorneys were trained in an atmosphere that was immigrant friendly and geared towards resolutions and they will not quickly, if ever, change their attitudes and methods towards immigration enforcement. Fourth, if you are already working on your immigration case, either by defending your case in Immigration Court or applying for a green card, a waiver, or naturalization, you do not need to worry, because it is illegal immigration that President Elect Donald Trump said he wishes to prevent, not legal immigration. Let’s not forget, two of President Elect Donald Trump’s wives and his mother were immigrants.
For those of you who do not have a pending immigration case, this is the time to act. If you who were hoping to obtain a work permit through DAPA, you should speak with an attorney about other options. For example, you may be eligible to obtain a green card in Immigration Court through an application called Cancellation of Removal if you have been in the United States for ten years, have been a person a good moral character and can demonstrate exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen spouse, parent or child. If prior to April 30, 2001, someone filed a family or employment-based petition for you, for one of your parents while you were under 21 years-old and unmarried, or for your spouse (or ex-spouse) while you were married to your spouse, you may be eligible to apply for a green card even if you are presently out of status. The August 29, 2016 expansion of the provisional waiver, which is for people with U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident parents or spouses that would suffer extreme hardship without them, may also help you become a permanent resident based on a relative or employment petition if you entered the United States without inspection (without encountering an immigration officer), if you were admitted as a C1/D crewman, or if you are ineligible to apply for a green card in the United States because you are out of status. These are just a few of several immigration options that may help you legalize your status.
If you have an outstanding deportation or removal order, now is the time to contact an attorney about reopening the case. This may be possible even if years have passed since the time your case was in the Immigration Court or in front of the Board of Immigration Appeals if something has changed that allows you to apply for a green card (e.g. you married to a U.S. Citizen or your U.S. Citizen child is at least 21-years-old), or if conditions have changed in your home country making it dangerous for you to return, or if there has been a law change making you eligible for new immigration options. You may also reopen your case if you were deported or removed for failure to appear in Immigration Court and you can prove you did not receive proper notice or if your attorney did not inform you of your hearing date or advised you not to attend the hearing. If you were a victim of ineffective assistance of counsel you may also be able to reopen your immigration case.
Finally, if you have any criminal convictions, you must speak with an immigration attorney. Certain criminal convictions can affect your eligibility for a green card and can cause you to be placed in removal proceedings. Even those with green cards may be in jeopardy or being placed in removal proceedings if convicted of certain crimes. If your conviction has immigration consequences and you were convicted after a guilty plea, you may be eligible to file a motion to vacate the conviction in criminal court. At Spar & Bernstein, we have a team of professional and experienced criminal defense attorneys that collaborate with our immigration lawyers to reduce or eliminate criminal convictions so that you can apply for or keep your green card.
From us at Spar & Bernstein, we urge you not to hide in fear, but to be proactive and use this time to speak with an immigration attorney about your case.