Yesterday, a client of mine had an immigration interview. She is in her 20's and is married to a U.S. citizen. She and her husband were high school sweethearts and still act like newlyweds even though they've been married for more than 2 years. Cute couple.
Her problem is that she was ordered deported in 2004. Not her fault, and she wasn't even there when it happened. She came to the U.S. when she was 5 years old. Her parents filed immigration applications for the whole family, but they were ultimately denied (long story and not really relevant to my client's case) and all the appeals were eventually denied, although that process took years. While all this was going on, my client was growing up, going to school, falling in love - basically leading a fairly normal life.
Now, since my client initially entered the U.S. legally, she is eligible to get her greencard through her marriage. Moreover, even though she has an outstanding deportation order, she is entitled to have that order rescinded if her marriage case is approved. That is what I was in the process of doing when we all went to the interview yesterday.
Unfortunately, we got an interviewing officer with a misplaced sense of duty. Once he discovered the 2004 deportation order, he immediately notified ICE instead of simply completing the interview. We were able to finish the interview eventually (after a supervisor intervened), but ICE had already been summoned, and you can't unring that bell.
Once ICE arrived, I immediately started "doing my thing" to see what (if anything) I could do to prevent my client from being arrested and deported. The ICE officers were very understanding and sympathetic (which has almost always been my experience with ICE - despite what you read in the media) but had no discretion; once they have a person subject to a final deportation order, they are required to detain her.
Fortunately, mandatory detention is not the same as mandatory deportation. Also,ICE was not that busy, and my case had gained the sympathetic ear of the ICE supervisor on duty yesterday. He personally escorted my client to the detention facility (which is in the same building - another fortunate circumstance) and personally spoke with the Detention supervisor (who also knew me from previous cases I had handled - yet another fortunate circumstance) who agreed to release my client under an Order of Supervision. She is still technically "detained" and has to report to ICE periodically, but she can sleep at home, in her own bed, with her husband, and otherwise live life normally while I am working on her case.
Since I was there, knew what I was doing and caught a couple of breaks, my client will be OK; she'll get her greencard and yesterday will become just a scary story she can tell her children someday. However, there are literally thousands of "illegals" with situations very, very similar to my client's who don't catch those breaks. As a result, they are deported from the U.S.
This case exemplifies the need for comprehensive immigration reform (i.e., not just "enforcement first" or "enforcement only") because my client was very nearly chewed up and spit out by conflicting immigration laws. The "benefits side" of the law says that people like my client can get greencards even with a final deportation order, while the "enforcement side" of the law says that all final deportation orders must be enforced. Comprehensive reform would (hopefully) reconcile these two provisions so they would work in harmony. Both "enforcement first" and "enforcement only" solutions will, the vast majority of the time, result in people like my client being deported from the U.S.
So, what do you enforcement guys think? After reading my story, do you still think "enforcement first" or "enforcement only" is the way to go? If so, I'd love to know why. It's been my experience that few people are truly "heartless" so there must be some reason why you think it would be OK to deport my client; I just can't imagine what that reason would be.
Friday, June 7, 2013
You might not believe it considering all the controversy surrounding immigration in the U.S., but we have one of the most—if not the most—wide open and liberal immigration policies in the world. Every year, more than 400,000 foreign nationals legally move to the United States.
The United States as a society (not necessarily politicians, mind you) seems to have realized the potential immigrants bring to this country. Numerous studies have shown that immigrants are more likely than U.S. citizens to start businesses, earn advanced degrees and fill needed positions in the workforce that many citizens refuse to take themselves.
But it’s clearly not liberal enough because every year, just as many people enter the country illegally. Consequently, immigration has become a major political rallying point, dividing popular opinion and resulting in drastic measures by lawmakers nationwide. One great example was the passage of a law called SB-1070 in Arizona in 2010 that gave local police the power to stop and question anyone they might think is in the country illegally. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled much of the law unconstitutional before it took effect.
On the other side of the aisle, lawmakers have tried to find ways to deal fairly with the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., working, raising families and contributing to society. One such example is the DREAM Act, which would offer a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, allowing them to live their lives in the light of day. The implications would be far-reaching. It is estimated that just in Los Angeles, The DREAM Act would benefit over 32,000 undocumented youths between the ages of 13 and 19.
The DREAM Act has been introduced to Congress a handful of times in the last few years and has failed every time. Efforts to reform the legal immigration system have been equally frustrated, though well-intentioned lawmakers and citizen activists continue to speak out in hopes that these reforms will come. But, for the time being, hopeful U.S. immigrants are stuck with the current laws and have no choice but to navigate the current maze of rules and regulations which make up our broken immigration system.
There are quite a few options available to someone wanting to immigrate to the U.S. Most people have heard of Lawful Permanent Residency (“green card”). And of course, marrying a U.S. citizen will get you into the country or keep you here, at least most of the time. But there are numerous lesser-known visas available for immigrants who want to come work temporarily in the U.S.H-2A visas are available for individuals seeking work in the agricultural industry or other seasonal occupations. Highly-skilled immigrants who can fill needed positions can obtain H-1B visas (although there has been a shortage of H-1B visas for the past several years. E visas are available for immigrant entrepreneurs who want to invest in the U.S. economy, students can come on F or M visas and more.
The DREAM Act is before Congress again, this time as part of S. 744, the Immigration Reform Bill currently wending its way through Congress. Although not perfect, most immigration advocates agree it is a very good Bill that will solve many of the problems created by the current, broken system.
Unfortunately, nobody knows when, or if S. 744 will become law, and until then we need to work within the current maze of hard to understand and often conflicting rules and regulations of the current system. We can only hope that relief comes soon. We have already waited too long.