ICE Raids Causing Panic In Immigrant Communities – Is There A Solution?

By Attorneys Devin M. Connolly & Nancy E Miller

In recent weeks Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has carried out targeted raids nationwide as part of their efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.  These raids have occurred in California and Florida and many places in between.  These raids have resulted in the break-up of families, individuals losing their jobs, and countless people scared to leave their homes and lead their normal lives.

These raids have also caused tremendous fear in our immigrant communities. Children have been forced to wonder if their mom or dad will be deported before they return home from school on a given day, while others have been forced to confront the reality that they may be detained on their morning commute to work, an especially stressful situation when their income is the family’s sole means of financial support.  Is there a solution to these fears and uncertainty?  There may very well be.

All undocumented immigrants, including those who have previously been ordered deported, should immediately inquire about whether they may be eligible for permanent resident status (green card). For example, you may be a good candidate for Cancellation of Removal for Non-Permanent Residents. This allows qualified individuals to obtain a green card if they have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years, do not have any disqualifying criminal convictions, have good moral character, and can show that a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident parent, spouse or child would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if the applicant were forced to leave the United States.  This is a form of relief from deportation and is only available in Immigration Court. In addition, applicants are eligible to obtain employment authorization while their application is pending.

But what if a person does not have the required 10 years in the U.S. or does not have a good case for some other reason? There are still other options.  Another way of obtaining a green card is through a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver.  A waiver “forgives” a ground of inadmissibility so the person may apply for a benefit. A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver is for undocumented immigrants who are ineligible for adjustment of status, and who will incur a 3 or 10-year bar from returning to the U.S. as soon as they leave.  And yes, these bars do still apply even if the sole reason for the foreign-born citizens’ departure is to attend an interview at the U.S. Consulate in their native country.

The benefit to a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver is that the 3 or 10-year bar is waived before the applicant ever actually leaves the U.S. The applicant submits the waiver while still residing in the U.S., and is not forced to leave the U.S. until after the waiver has been approved and they have an upcoming interview at the U.S. Consulate. This pre-approved waiver avoids lengthy separation of family members since the applicant would hopefully be able to return to the U.S. within a matter of days.  Finally, a person may be eligible for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver regardless of who filed the petition for them if they can show “extreme hardship” to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent.

For undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. who have previously been ordered deported, there may be a solution to your problem as well. A skilled immigration attorney may be able to get your court case reopened, thereby allowing you to apply for a green card.  A case can be reopened for a variety of reasons, including a change in personal circumstances such as marriage to a U.S. citizen, a change in conditions in your native country that make it unsafe for you to return, or perhaps if you were previously the victim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

And someone who has been ordered deported may still be able to apply for a provisional waiver after applying for and receiving advanced permission to reapply for admission to the United States.

Finally, permanent residents should seriously consider becoming U.S. citizens.  Green cards are terrific, but U.S. citizens are still afforded more rights and benefits than permanent residents, including unlimited travel and the ability to vote. With talk of travel bans and the never-ending risk of deportation for green card holders who just make one mistake, the rights of U.S. citizenship have potentially never been more valuable.

It is a very uncertain time for immigrants. The easiest thing to do right now is remain in the shadows and hope the problem goes away.   Unfortunately, ignoring problems often only makes them worse.  Consult an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney today about applying for a green card or becoming a U.S. citizen.