Immigration is a hot topic in the news and at the water coolers of America. President Obama just recently announced sweeping changes to immigration policy through the issuance of Executive Orders. These orders may or may not be effectuated depending on the Courts and Congress, who threaten to file a lawsuit prohibiting the executive branch from implementing the President’s plans. These changes might make it confusing to determine legal standing for immigrants.
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act and other measures
This act, enabled by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan, made it illegal to hire any person without the proper work-visas or proof of citizenship. Since its enactment, some 12 million undocumented workers have entered the country. The law did little to discourage workers from coming to the US and over the last 30 years, many failed attempts at “reform” have been attempted. In 2005, the US House passed a border protection law, yet it failed to pass in the Senate. In 2009, other proposals were being worked between the political parties and the White House, but no concrete law was ever passed.
Millions of undocumented workers have been deported and millions of families have been broken up by these deportations. Children of many undocumented workers are born in the US and therefore are US Citizens, regardless of their parents’ citizenship and legal status in the US. It is these and other issues that the US President is trying to address in his Executive Orders of November 2014.
How to become Legal in Today’s America?
In March of 2013, policy changes allowed for green card seekers, who were not eligible under prior policy, to adjust their status. These people were allowed to apply for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence or, as it is commonly called, “the stateside waiver”. This process allows for the immigrant to get a “yes” or “no” from the US government, prior to leaving the US for their consular interviews, which must take place in their home countries. With this tacit approval, the immigrant should be more confident of re-entry into the US after the interviews. The US government has promised that this process is not being used to gather information on persons who are not criminals or a risk to any citizen of the US.
There are some eligibility requirements that must be met to apply for the stateside waiver:
- Immediate relatives of US citizens, such as a legal spouse, parent, or an unmarried minor under 21. This does not include relatives of permanent residents, however, the government has promised to look at each case with the hope of keeping families together.
- Must be at least 17 (it is not possible to become a legal resident until 18 anyway).
- Must be physically present in the US
- Must be admissible to the US (no criminal cases, no prior deportations, etc.) The only ground for inadmissibility that will not be considered in the waiver is the 180 day over-stay provision.
- Prove that if you were not granted the waiver, your immediate family would suffer extreme hardship.
Many immigrants have been justifiably scared of making their status known to the government. It is also clear that these qualifications are ambiguous at best and therefore trust in the new waiver system is not widespread. Deportation carries a 3 or 10 year bar and places the applicant at the back of a very long line.
Is it Worth Coming Forward to Apply?
This is where consulting a Nevada immigration attorney is very helpful to you. An experienced lawyer can assist you in negotiating the ever-changing landscape that is current US immigration law. The potential benefits outweigh the risks of making the application for waiver under the 2013 provisions. There will be new developments in the 2014 Executive Orders and these will impact how and what needs to be done to keep families together and assist an undocumented worker in upgrading their status in the US.
Currently ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will not be notified by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when a waiver application is submitted, unless the applicant is thought to be a danger to society, such as a criminal or one who has threatened the homeland. It is also important to note that if you have at least 2 grounds for inadmissibility you should not apply. The government is prepared to waive the 180 day rule, but they will not ignore any other characteristics of inadmissibility. Consult with an immigration lawyer at Bighorn Law for details and begin to make a plan for a more permanent status in the United States.