President Trump has discussed his intention to deport all undocumented immigrants ever since 2015 when he announced that he wanted to be president. And since 2015, his words and proposed actions have terrified not only undocumented immigrants, but also lawful permanent residents and even many U.S. citizens. There are countless people who are scared they will be deported, and many more concerned for beloved friends and family members.
Rather than living in the shadows, both undocumented immigrants and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) need to explore their options on improving their immigration situation. Instead of changing jobs or refusing to go outside, now is exactly the time speak with an immigration attorney and explore your options to improving your legal status in the U.S. Because despite all the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the discussions about punishing “Sanctuary Cities,” there are still plenty of options available.
For undocumented immigrants, even with the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and more deportations, there are still many ways of obtaining a green card or work authorization in the U.S. One of the most preferred ways of obtaining a green card right now is through a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver (I-601A). A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver helps intending immigrants who are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status either because they entered the U.S. without authorization of because they are not maintaining valid immigration status and are not protected by Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The issue for these foreign-born citizens is that if they immediately leave the U.S., they may not be able to return to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years.
However, a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver would waive that 3 or 10-year bar. The applicant can submit their request for a waiver before they ever leave the U.S., and they are not necessarily required to leave the U.S. until after the waiver has been approved. 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. Please note there are certain reasons why a person may not be eligible, so it is important to speak with a knowledgeable immigration attorney before submitting a request for this type of waiver.
Another potential option for undocumented immigrants is the “Violence Against Women Act” (“VAWA”). This is available to those who have unfortunately been the victim of abuse by a loved one, which sadly, is not uncommon. VAWA is available to men and women and could be a way to obtain a green card for people if they have been victims of physical or emotional abuse. It requires the victim to file a self-petition, which may be done without any assistance from the abusive spouse, children or parent. Importantly, since it is a self-petition, it allows the victim to immediately seek both safety and independence from their abuser. The abuser will not be notified about the self-petition.
There are more options as well. Do you have a child with special needs or who is extremely talented, or a parent that is dependent on you as a caregiver? If so, you may be eligible for work authorization and a green card through Cancellation of Removal for Non-Permanent Residents. There are even more options for undocumented immigrants that can be discussed with an immigration attorney.
Finally, permanent residents should seriously consider becoming U.S. citizens. It is true that having a green card is a wonderful thing, but it does not carry with it the rights of U.S. citizenship, such as 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. Nobody knows for sure what laws will be changed or when. Ignoring your problems will not make them go away. Consult an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney today about applying for a green card or becoming a U.S. citizen.