Just last week, five applicants were reportedly picked up and arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) when they appeared for their immigration interviews with USCIS in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Apparently, three of them were scheduled to appear for interviews in connection with their applications for green cards. Although it is not entirely clear, the context appears to suggest that these were marriage based interviews. Not surprisingly, incidents like these have revived fear and paranoia within the undocumented community about being picked up at immigration interviews. And while it is not the intent of this piece to feed that hysteria, occurrences like these do underscore the importance of seeking proper legal advice from qualified and experienced professionals-not notarios or dabblers-before filing immigration paperwork with the government. Especially when it comes to those who have no status, it is critical to understand what can happen just as much as what will probably happen. Filing for status or permanent residency is not as easy as filling out a form, as if one were filing a tax return (which, in truth, can be equally complex).
In some cases, it is not only conceivable but sometimes likely that an individual will be apprehended by ICE, especially given the political climate and recent mandate to strictly enforce the immigration laws. So, at least for immigration attorneys, the recent news is not necessarily a shocker. Even before President Trump took office, ICE would, under certain circumstances, apprehend individuals appearing for certain USCIS appointments. In most cases, these individuals have already been ordered deported; in other words, many of them already have outstanding orders of removal, making them “fugitives,” in a sense, to the enforcement arm of the government. As a general matter, at least right now, ICE has not been arresting out-of-status individuals without outstanding orders or other egregious factors who appear for appointments with the benefits branch of the DHS, which is USCIS. Of course, this is only generally speaking-and every case is different. As has been said many times before, the practice of immigration law is extremely fact and case sensitive. Moreover, the policies that ICE and USCIS follow can change in an instant. Take a close look at President Trump’s Interior Enforcement Executive Order. The framework is already in place for the government to ramp up enforcement.
Who Is Most At Risk?
Certainly, anybody considering filing an immigration application with some of the following circumstances, should consult with an immigration attorney to carefully and realistically assess the viability of their immigration application and exposure to apprehension. Some trouble areas or circumstances include but are not limited to:
•· Criminal arrests
•· Criminal convictions
•· Arrest or conviction of serious traffic violations including Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
•· Outstanding Warrants
•· Previous Immigration Court Proceedings
•· Immigration Orders of Removal or Deportation Orders
•· Fraud or misrepresentation in connection with government benefits
•· Fraud or misrepresentation in connection with immigration
•· Use of fraudulent documents
•· Procurement of fraudulent documents
•· Overstaying as a Visa Waiver (WT) or ESTA visitor
Importantly, these are only some issues to be aware of. Contrary to popular belief, being married to a United States Citizen in a bona-fide relationship is not enough.
For more information on the green card process and the perils and benefits of applying, please contact our office. The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.