In the wake of sweeping immigration changes by the President and saturated media coverage, FEAR is the most common thing I’m seeing in my office these days. What do I do if ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detains me? How soon can I apply for naturalization? Should I take our planned family vacation to the islands? Both lawful permanent residents and undocumented immigrants alike have flooded my office this past month with questions spawned by their growing fear due to Trump’s orders and ICE’s new directives. This month, I’m tackling your most pressing questions. If you’re wondering, what’s going on or what you can do, read on.
1) I heard now people can be removed without seeing a judge or getting a proper hearing; is that true, and what can I do to prevent that? Procedures called “expedited removal,” “reinstatement of removal,” and “administrative removal” all allow the government to deport a person without a hearing before a judge in immigration court. In particular, “expedited removal” is the procedure currently in the news given the President’s expansion of its use via executive order. The President’s order expanded expedited removal procedures to include any persons who have been in the U.S. for up to two years. The only way to avoided this if you have been in the U.S. under two years, is to establish a credible fear of persecution if you are returned to your home country. In the alternative, if you have been in the country over two years and are unlawfully present, I would advise you carry evidence of your physical presence in the U.S. with you at all times in the event that you are detained.
2) Is it safe to travel outside of the country on vacation if I am a Lawful Resident but not yet a citizen? For most people, the answer is yes, but beware. The President has stated that another travel ban is in the works, and we are yet to know what the consequences of that will be. Moreover, you may be subject to detention upon your return to the U.S. if you have a criminal past or other special history that makes you a priority for ICE detention and removal. You should consult with a lawyer if you are unsure.
3) I have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals); can I be deported and will DACA be terminated? We don’t know yet what the President’s long term plans are regarding DACA renewals and status; however, as of now, nothing has changed. DACA is still in place. This doesn’t, however, mean you cannot be detained if you are in valid DACA status but you have committed crimes that now make you deportable.
4) What should I do to prepare in case ICE detains me? First and foremost, know your rights. Know when you have to and when you don’t have to open the door. Know when you’re entitled to an interpreter and an attorney. Know that if you’re detained, you may remain silent and don’t have to sign anything. Second, research what documents you should carry with you and keep copies of important documents (such as your passport) at home or with a trusted relative. Third, have a plan. Whether it be for your property, money, or children, you should plan for the worst so you’re not caught off guard in the event of an emergency.
5) When can I apply for citizenship? Most residents can apply for citizenship after five years as a lawful permanent resident. If you are married to a U.S. Citizen, usually you may apply after three years. There are always small exceptions and unique circumstances that can alter your ability to qualify, so you should always consult with an immigration attorney if you have any potentially negative circumstances that should be taken into consideration (such as arrests, tax issues, too much travel abroad, child support problems, or failure to register for selective service, among others).
6) Where are some of the common places I may encounter ICE? Airports, land borders, ports, marinas, and anywhere else officers would normally encounter foreign visitors entering or exiting the country.
7) Can Trump deport the 11.1 undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. now? Not as things currently are. ICE has limited detention space. They don’t have the resources to deport everyone living out of status or even everyone who already has a deportation order. While the President has ordered for an increased number of agents and detention center space, it is still not feasible to detain anymore than a small fraction of those currently in the U.S. Moreover, the Supreme Court previously ruled that immigration could not detain anyone for over six months without a “reasonably foreseeable” period of time. This makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. to deport anyone from a country that won’t take them back (Cubans, for example, are known for remaining on Orders of Supervision in the U.S. for many years past being ordered deported by a Judge).
8) Do I qualify for residency? That is wholly dependent on the facts of each individual case. You should consult with our office (or any other qualified immigration attorney) to see what you qualify for and what your best option is. This is the time to seek good legal advice.