By Attorneys Rafael Torres, III and Nancy E. Miller
The past few days have been filled with political and legal turmoil stemming from a flurry of executive orders issued by President Donald Trump. Our country has responded with an earnest outcry of activist movement, but the fact remains that these problematic orders still exist. Among these orders are some that focus on immigration matters, including the initiation of a plan to increase border security, pursue undocumented individuals within the United States, and suspension of entry into the United States by all immigrants and nonimmigrants from certain countries, as well as suspension of the United States Refugee Admissions Program. Each of these orders are a weighty exercise of executive authority, and, when considered together, reveal a pattern of severe reduction in the forms of relief and benefits available to our immigrant community. As such, anyone with a potentially available immigration option, the time to act is now.
Some initial options to consider are adjustment of status and naturalization, although there are many others. Eligibility for adjustment of status is complicated. Records of travel to and from the United States must be reviewed, as well as the types of documents used during these trips. The next issue, among a host of other factors, that needs to be evaluated is the grounds for seeking adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident status. Some common grounds are a qualifying family relationship, specialized employment, or maintenance of refugee status for a set period of time, just to name a few. To further muddy the waters, some categories of qualifying family relationships may disappear in the near future, such as the category encompassing brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens or even married children of U.S. citizens. Thus, if there are any U.S. citizens who have considered filing petitions for their siblings or married children, they should do so immediately before these categories are removed.
Of course, if there are no U.S. citizens in your family, you may not have access to such a petition, unless someone is eligible to naturalize. If so, the application should be filed now. Among those who were subject to detention and denial of entry to the United States this past weekend as a result of President Trump’s executive action, were lawful permanent residents and persons holding various types of validly-issued visas. This is an indication that those who enjoy the benefit of lawful permanent resident status are not immune from the danger of deportation. U.S. citizens are much more protected and enjoy access to a larger pool of rights and privileges as compared to individuals with lawful permanent resident status. Thus, if you are eligible, you should apply for naturalization now. As an added motivating factor, if you are approved and sworn in as a U.S. citizen, you may be able to pass immigration benefits to some of your qualified family members.
These are tumultuous times. Unfortunately, no one knows what the future holds for our immigration system. What we do know paints a bleak picture. Take, for example, one of President Trump’s recently issued executive orders which established broad enforcement priorities against all individuals who are currently present in the United States and are without legal status. Specifically named in the order are priority enforcement against those who have been convicted of a crime, charged with a crime, committed acts that constitute a crime, are subject to a final order of removal but have not yet complied, among others. In response to this type of action, you should prepare by doing everything you can to protect yourself and your family.
How do you do that? The best thing you can do is to immediately consult with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney. There is absolutely no substitute for such a consultation because the attorney will be able to conduct a tailored inquiry into your history and may be able to propose solutions. Most importantly, the time to act is now because your options may literally disappear with the stroke of a pen.