Representing Clients All Over the U.S.

Immigration Protection: Frequently Asked Questions

The following are common questions I receive after consultations. The answers to these questions may give you more peace of mind and certainty in the decision to pursue an immigration case and to determine if this is the right time to do so.

Q. I’m waiting for the immigration law to change. My wife will continue to live with me illegally and we’ll just be very careful that she won’t get pulled over or caught by ICE. How realistic is it that new immigration laws will happen?

I get this question a lot.  Despite having current immigration options, it is still scary to expose a loved one to the immigration system when she has been living under the radar for years and there is a chance of denial in any immigration case.  However, I also hate to hear when people get their hopes up that a new immigration law is going to protect their loved one who has been here illegally for years or provide for work permit solely to stop working under the table.  They often it calls from people who heard something on the news about a congressional representative or even the president talking about immigration and the need to immigration reform and there has been talk for the last 12 years of a guest worker program as well as the Dream act for students who are here undocumented you want go to college.  However, any legislation that has been introduced into Congress has either stalled in committee or not passed one house in Congress to move forward.  This reflects the reality of the current anti-immigration climate that has existed since the September 11th tragedy.

245(i), the previous provision that expired on April 30, 2001, which allowed an undocumented person to get their green card in the United States despite illegal entry if the immigrant had an immigrant visa or labor cert filed by an employer or immigrant visa filed for the immigrant by a family member by that date, has not been renewed in Congress since it expired.  245(i)I has been introduced every year and has failed.  This reflects the realism that immigrants don’t have the political backing to get anything passed that would provide positive new benefits at this stage. 

In addition, in addition to September 11th, since 2007 and worsening in 2008, the U.S. economy has been in a recession and many U.S. citizens have been out of work.  These are the same U.S. citizens who vote congressional members into office and so these Senators and Representatives listen to them.  There has been even more anger against immigrants in the failed economy who continue to work for lower wages and under the table as U.S. citizens are having difficulty finding minimum wage jobs in parts of the US. Although blaming immigrants is not justified as they usually take the jobs in the us citizens want, it’s the kiss of death for any Congressperson to side with introducing positive immigration benefits in many districts.  Immigrants have little clout in Congress because they have no right to vote.  Until the economy improves and assuming we can keep a democratic Congress and democratic President in the executive office, there is no chance of immigration reform.  I advise my clients to focus on the reality of what the law is now and what options are available to them under the current climate (which is more centered on immigration law enforcement than providing benefits).  It’s sad because immigrants and their loved ones hear something on the news that sounds positive and if my clients hear this, they know they can always call us, but we warn that if it sounds too good be true, especially in this climate, it usually is.

Q. I’m a U.S. citizen; doesn’t this and our U.S. children protect my wife from being deported? I would rather wait to file anything until the law changes. Should I be concerned? 

Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not grant legal status to anyone.  There have been many cases of spouses of U.S. citizens who are trapped outside the United States for over 10 years with no waivers available to them because of the immigrant spouse’s past immigration conduct.  The immigration laws can be very harsh and the fact that you have children is not a qualifying reason for waivers in most applications for immigration relief.  Judges and even consular officers look at having children as a “voluntary act” and you knew what you could be getting into when you’re married to someone who is undocumented.  You are deemed to have assumed the risk of being separated because of immigration down the line.  I find in most circumstances, it usually better to file a case for the spouse if a spouse qualifies to at least have the petition in the system, which may buy a time and leniency with the immigration judge if the immigrant spouse is picked up walking their child home from school, shopping at a grocery store or as part of an employer worksite raid.  Having a pending case in the system may even deter an immigration hold, detaining the immigrant, and referring her to immigration proceedings when someone is pulled over for a minor traffic violation and it’s discovered that there’s no immigration paperwork pending and no legal status.  With a benefit pending, this could buy time to fight your case.  Always talked to a qualified immigration lawyer about the pros and cons of filing your case before you go forward. 

Q. I’m afraid to file anything with immigration because I don’t want to expose my spouse who is living here without valid immigration papers. What can I do?

You have to weigh the pros and cons of starting your immigration case.  If you are requesting a full copy of your spouse’s immigration file to determine what options may be available to your spouse, this usually does not result in a referral to ICE to pick up your spouse. However, nothing is guaranteed.  Keep in mind that ICE’s priority of those immigrants to pick up are aggravated felons, people who have served jail time but a been released and not picked up by immigration yet, those who have overstayed deportation orders, and frequent immigration law violators.  We have no indication from the many filings that we have filed with Customs and Border Protection, the Immigration Court, and CIS to obtain for copies of files that ICE is ever referred in these circumstances.  They just don’t have the time to talk with other agencies after records are pulled in most circumstances. 

As always, you have to weigh the pros and cons of doing nothing and being picked up and having no paperwork filed or no case path started and then having to start your case outside the United States where maybe extremely difficult to accomplish or even impossible depending on the immigration damage that’s been done already. I know it can be scary to file anything. There is inherent risk in doing so, not knowing the eventual outcome of a case but you can take certain measures to ensure that you have the strongest case possible in your circumstances to improve your chances of approval and make sure you are represented by an experienced, reputable immigration attorney, who can respond on your behalf to CIS and ICE in the worst case scenario.  

Q. I don’t trust my spouse who’s been acting weird lately. Wouldn’t it be better to wait to see if my spouse will go to the green card interview with me?

You know your spouse better than I do.  You are the best judge as to what their potential behavior could be throughout the immigration process.  The immigration adjustment interview for conditional green card removal interview is a crucial part in obtaining or keeping your green card.  If your spouse fails to show up to the interview, your case will be denied, if your spouse sabotage is the interview, is rude to the officer, does an answer questions crackly, and ”forgets” vital part of the relationship, they will be a significant chance of denial and your credibility and that of your spouse will be in question for potential marriage fraud, which carries civil and criminal liability and a lifetime bar to any future immigration benefit for you, the immigrant. 

If you have a pending a green card case based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and are represented by an attorney, if your marriage starts to fall apart, anything you tell your attorney will likely be related to your spouse.  Although you benefit from attorney client privilege when it comes to people outside of the attorney’s office and CIS, the immigration attorney in your marriage case represents both of you. You are both his or her client so if the attorney learns something about one spouse that would benefit or hurt the other spouse, the attorney has an obligation to inform the other spouse.  If the marriage is not going to work or you worry about what could be said to your spouse, I strongly suggest that you and only you consult another immigration attorney about your situation to determine your options, the timing of the breakup (before or after the green card interview), whether you are contemplating divorce, the potential conditional nature of your residency even if your spouse is cooperative through the process up until the interview and other factors that could affect the outcome of your case. 

Q. My friend filed for his wife and got her a green card without the help of an immigration Attorney. Why should I use an immigration Attorney?

It is tempting to compare your case is someone else’s.  This usually backfires because every case is different, even if you can’t tell from looking at it.  There are certain actions that an immigrant can take in their history or where they are from that can result in a wildly different outcome than someone else’s case that seems to have the same facts.  The cautious when taking advice from people online who are not attorneys and who do not know the specifics of your situation and relying on such advice.  I’ve had many clients come to me for help after their cases have been denied because they thought they were easy cases and they filed the case themselves or with the help of a friend. At this point, they’re often separated for more than a year already from their spouse or their loved one is in removal proceedings because of the denial.  They relied on advice from a friend or from someone they talked to on the Internet or some blog or advice they read in an Internet chat forum on immigration instead of getting competent immigration attorney advice first before filing anything. I’ve seen clients leave the U.S.  And consular process because friends have told them that’s the way to do it, resulting in triggering unlawful presence bars that could separate them from their spouses for up to 10 years.  Whereas, if they had just come to me first, I could have found a way for them to avoid the unlawful presence bar and get their green card in the United States without having to leave.  Be careful. 

Q. Why shouldn’t I hire an immigration lawyer based on the lowest fee?

Immigration attorneys don’t make it easy for you to determine if they are the right attorney for your particular facts and your type of case.  As a result, many consumers are forced to decide to hire a lawyer just based on price.  This can be a major mistake.  As the old adage, you usually get what you pay for.  Attorneys fees are usually based on the number of hours that an attorney will need to put in to your case and the amount of experience that attorney has with your particular type of case.  You should look for an Atty. who has experience in your kind of case and stay away from general practitioners (attorneys who dabble in immigration cases but handle everything else – divorce, criminal law, civil law, wills and trusts, etc.).  It’s impossible to be an expert in immigration law if you’re constantly engaged in other types of law.  Immigration law is constantly changing, with new court decisions, regulations, policy changes, and procedures being introduced every day. 

Even immigration attorneys some specialize in certain areas because it’s just impossible to keep up with everything.  Many immigration attorneys only do employment-related immigration or simple family cases or removal defense only.  At our firm, we focus exclusively on complex family based immigration cases including:  

  • Unlawful presence waivers (for those who are separated from a loved one because of illegal entries and over stays)
  • Non-traditional and modern marriage & fiancé cases
  • Abused spouse green cards and crime victim cases
  • Conditional green card waivers (for immigrants who are separated from or can no longer trust your spouse)
  • Criminal and misrepresentation waivers (for immigrants who have lied, used fake documents, or had missteps with the law but are risking future now with their loved ones).
  • And other complicated family-based removal cases.  

That’s all we do.  Heather’s publications and trainings of other attorneys throughout each year point to her ongoing expertise in this area.  We refer out cases to other immigration attorneys who take simpler family-based cases and employment cases.

Q. I live outside of California. How would Immigration Attorney Heather be able to help me? Will she travel to my interview? Is there any reason why I would need a local immigration attorney? 

People are always surprised to hear that the majority of our clients reside outside of Southern California.  75% of our clients never meet us in person and have found us through online referrals. Heather travels to their green card, naturalization or deportation proceeding to represent our clients when needed or requested.  We are one of the few immigration firms in the US that truly has an international practice, with many clients outside of the US having found out the hard way from the consul that they can’t return without applying for a waiver or different immigrant benefit.  Modern technology has made as possible for us, with many clients find us online and the ability to use FedEx, our frequent e-mails and calls, Zoom, and other fast ways to communicate makes this all possible to work with us.  Occasionally, Attorney Heather will recommend that a potential client hire a local attorney if an immigrant is currently detained or there is an ongoing removal case. Heather will be honest with you about what your options are and if we’re the right firm for you.

 For a consultation with Attorney Heather, call us today 877.486.2678