Category Archives: deferred action

DREAMers Face Uncertainty as Trump Administration Ends DACA and Leaves the Fight Up to a Divided Congress

On his campaign trail,  President Trump said he would “immediately terminate” DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program introduced by the Obama Administration in June 2012.  Although it took several months to make a decision, the Trump Administration issued a memorandum on September 5, 2017, to end the program.

As of this date, no new, initial DACA applications will be accepted. Current DACA holders whose benefits expire on or before March 5, 2018, may file for a renewal, valid for 2 years, by October 5, 2017.

Almost 800,000 eligible, undocumented immigrants have received DACA as a temporary relief from removal, which includes work authorization valid for two years. Commonly known as “DREAMERs,” DACA holders include undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors before age 16, have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, are currently in school or have graduated from high school, have no serious criminal history, and meet other eligibility requirements.

DACA, however, has always been a temporary relief subject to rescission by a new Administration and which provided no path to lawful nonimmigrant status, permanent residence, or citizenship.

The DACA program was introduced by the Obama Administration in a  June 15, 2012 memorandum from then DHS-Secretary Janet Napolitano, titled Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion With Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children. Critics viewed it as an unconstitutional use of power by the Executive Branch. Supporters saw it as an extension of prosecutorial discretion related to immigration enforcement priorities and necessary protection for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and grew up in the country.

Federal court litigation ensued, in which a Texas-led coalition of 26 states  — including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin — filed a lawsuit to stop the expansion of DACA and the introduction of a similar relief, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

In January 2017, after taking office, President Trump stated in an interview with ABC’s David Muir that a new policy would be issued within weeks, but that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” He further commented: “I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody…But I will tell you, we’re looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we’re looking at it with great heart.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued to hold a hardline, calling DACA an “unconstitutional” act by Obama that has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” Sessions made the announcement in a September 5th news conference that the Trump Administration will phase out the DACA program.

On Twitter, following Sessions’ remarks, President Trump wrote, “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama administration was unable to do.) If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”

In a written statement issued after Sessions’ announcement, Trump said, “I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

“We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” Trump added.

There are at least four bills being discussed in Congress that provides protection to DREAMErs. They include the Dream Act, sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C; Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.; American Hope Act, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.; and BRIDGE Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. The first three creates a path for citizenship or permanent resident status if applicants meet certain requirements. The fourth seeks to codify the current DACA program into law and extend it for three years (but offers no path to permanent residence or citizenship), giving Congress more time to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Trump gave Congress six months to fix the broken immigration system, but there are diametrically opposed viewpoints within the Senate and House: some call for tougher border security and immigration enforcement, while others seek protection from removal and a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

Congress has struggled for several years to resolve big legislative issues like immigration. As such, six months make a very short period to tackle the monumental problem of DACA holders losing protection from removal and authorization to work in the United States.

With a divided Congress, the fate of DREAMers is uncertain. In addition to filing for DACA renewal, if eligible, and tracking legislative action in Congress, DACA holders should consult an immigration attorney to discuss other more concrete, existing immigration options.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: Lian Xiaoxiao

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

On day five of his Administration, January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued his second executive order on immigration, titled, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. It focuses on the removal of persons who illegally enter the U.S. and persons who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas.

Here is a description of Trump’s executive order on enhancing public safety within the United States, including the potential effects and impact: 

Authority: In the order, Trump cites to the Constitution and federal laws, such as the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA), as grounds for his presidential authority.

The president may set the policy and practices of immigration agencies and officials, in compliance with federal law set by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

Purpose: The order directs departments and agencies to employ all lawful means to enforce federal immigration laws and ensure the removal of persons who have no right to be in the United States.

Policy Highlights: 

1. Faithful Execution of Immigration Laws Against All Removable Persons. The executive order notes, “Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety.  This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States.”

2. Enforcement Priorities. The executive order instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize for removal all persons described in the Immigration & Nationality Act as inadmissible under sections 212(a)(2) (Criminal and related Grounds), 212(a)(3) (Security and related grounds), 212 (a)(6)(C) (Willful misrepresentation to gain immigration benefit) and 235 (Expedited Removal of inadmissible arriving alien), or removable under sections 237(a)(2) (Criminal offenses) and (4)(Security and related grounds).

The order also prioritizes removable persons who:

(a)  Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b)  Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;

(c)  Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d)  Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

(e)  Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(f)  Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or

(g)  In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

3. Civil Fines and Penalties. The executive order instructs the Secretary to issue guidance and promulgate regulations, where required by law, to assess and collect fines and penalties, as  authorized, from persons unlawfully present in the U.S. and from those who facilitate their presence in the U.S.

4. Additional Enforcement and Removal Officers. The executive order instructs the Secretary, through the Director of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, and to the extent permitted by law and subject to availability of funds, to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers to perform law enforcement functions.

5. Federal-State Agreements. The executive order instructs the Secretary to immediately engage with the Governors of the States, as well as local officials, to enter into INA 287(g) agreements. This allows for State and local law enforcement officials to perform functions of the immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension , or detention of aliens in the United States under the Secretary’s direction and supervision.

6. Terminate the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) outlined in the November 20, 2014 Memorandum and reinstate the Secure Communities program. The executive order instructs the Secretary to take all appropriate action to end the PEP program, which prioritizes removable persons who have been convicted of an offense listed under the DHS civil immigration enforcement priorities, has intentionally participated in an organized criminal gang to further the illegal activity of the gang, or poses a danger to national security. Trump’s order calls for the revival of the Secure Communities program, which was discontinued by then-Secretary Jeh Johnson in November 2014.

7. Refusal of Federal Grants to “Sanctuary Jurisdictions.” The executive order states that it is the executive branch’s policy to ensure that a State shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service).

Trump’s order adds that the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure jurisdictions that refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.  It further notes, “The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.”

The order also instructs the Secretary to publish a weekly list of all the crimes committed by immigrants and the jurisdictions that did not honor detainers with respect to such immigrants.

8.  Create an “Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens.” The executive order calls for the establishment of an office, within the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, to provide “professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the family members of such victims.”  The order also instructs the office to “provide quarterly reports  studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.”

Effects and Impact:

1. Broadening enforcement priorities

The executive order significantly broadens immigration enforcement priorities. It eliminates guidance in the November 20, 2014 memorandum issued by then-Secretary Jeh Johnson under the Obama Administration.

In that memorandum, Johnson noted that Priority 1 for immigration enforcement included aliens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage; aliens apprehended at the border or ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States; aliens convicted of an offense for which an element was active participation in a criminal street gang; aliens convicted of a felony as defined by state statute; and aliens convicted of an “aggravated felony” as defined by federal law. Priority 2 included aliens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, aliens convicted of a “significant misdemeanor” (i.e. domestic violence ; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving under the influence); aliens apprehended in the United States after unlawfully entering or re-entering the United States and who cannot prove they have been physically present in the United States continuously since January 1, 2014 ; and aliens who, in the judgment of an ICE Field Office Director, USCIS District Director, or USCIS Service Center Director, have significantly abused the visa or visa waiver programs.

In contrast, Trump’s executive order prioritizes persons who have been convicted of any criminal offense, which may include even minor infractions and misdemeanors. It also prioritizes any removable person who has been charged with (but not actually convicted of) a crime, or abused any program related to receipt of public benefits. It further encourages the removal of any person who an immigration officer deems is a danger to the “public safety or national security,” thus giving wide discretionary power to individual officers.

New guidance has yet to be issued to local immigration officers on how to implement the executive order. Some ICE Field Officers have stopped granting requests for prosecutorial discretion (PD), as described in the November 20, 2014 memorandum, in light of Trump’s order unless further guidance permits this relief. Others continue to grant PD based on prior directive under the Obama Administration, unless new instructions are provided.

With over 500,000 removal cases pending in fiscal year 2017, and immigrants facing years long delays before a judge makes a final decision on their case, the immigration court system is already heavily backlogged. Prioritizing removable persons who do not pose a threat to public safety will make it harder to focus on those who do.

2. Reinstating the 287(g) partnerships and Secure Communities program

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added section 287(g) to the Immigration & Nationality Act, permitting the delegation of immigration officer duties to deputized state officers and employees. The 287(g) program was credited by ICE for identifying more than 402,079 potentially removable aliens – mostly at local jails – from January 2006 through September 30, 2015.   In a December 20, 2012 news release, however, ICE announced it would phase out the 287(g) program in favor of other, more efficient enforcement programs, such as Secure Communities.

In November 2014, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, issued a memorandum discontinuing the Secure Communities program because it “attracted a great deal of criticism, is widely misunderstood, and is embroiled in litigation…” In its place, Johnson introduced the Priority Enforcement Program to focus on convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety. The memorandum instructed ICE to replace requests for detention (i.e., requests that an agency hold an individual beyond the point at which they would otherwise be released) with requests for notification (i.e. , requests that state or local law enforcement notify ICE of a pending release during the time that person is otherwise in custody under state or local authority).

Trump’s executive order promises to reinstate 287(g) partnerships and the Secure Communities program, which were criticized for fueling community mistrust in the police, being prone to racial profiling, increasing the use of immigration detainers to the detriment of the criminal justice system, and creating confusion over the roles of local, state, and federal agents.

3. Penalizing “sanctuary” cities, counties or states

The executive order threatens to withhold federal grants to jurisdictions (cities, counties, and states) that do not comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373. The order does not specifically define “sanctuary jurisdiction,” but the term generally refers to those that decline federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status or to collect immigration status from suspects.

Since Trump’s election, “sanctuary” cities like New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco and Seattle have vowed to limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. They won’t stop immigration authorities from enforcing federal law within their boundaries. But they will focus on local law enforcement so residents don’t avoid talking to the police out of fear of deportation risks or immigration consequences.

Whether federal funds may be withheld for the purpose of forcing “sanctuary jurisdictions” to support immigration enforcement is subject to legal challenges. Detaining individuals after a scheduled release date, to assist with federal immigration enforcement, may violate immigration and Constitutional law.

Furthermore, 8 U.S.C. 1373 merely requires communication between government agencies and the immigration agencies. It addresses the exchange of information regarding citizenship and immigration status among federal, state, and local government entities and officials.

Subsection (a) states federal, state and local government entities and officials may not “prohibit, or in any way restrict” government officials or entities from sending to, or receiving from, federal immigration officers information concerning an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.

Subsection (b) provides that no person or agency may “prohibit, or in any way restrict,” a federal, state, or local government entity from (1) sending to, or requesting or receiving from, federal immigration officers information regarding an individual’s immigration status, (2) maintaining such information, or (3) exchanging such information with any other federal, state, or local government entity.

Section 1373 prohibits government entities and officials from prohibiting or restricting intergovernmental exchange of such information. But it does not impose an affirmative duty on states and localities to collect information from individuals regarding their immigration status, nor does it require states and localities to take specific actions upon obtaining such information.

Conclusion

Expanding immigration enforcement priorities, reviving the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs, and threatening to penalize “sanctuary jurisdictions” are in line with Trump’s campaign positions.  Nevertheless, they are costly and likely ineffective strategies for protecting the American public from dangerous “aliens who engage in criminal conduct.”

For information on Trump’s other executive orders on immigration, read:

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: Neon Tommy

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

On day five of his Administration, January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued his first executive order on immigration, titled, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements. It prioritizes the detention and removal of unauthorized immigrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here is a description of Trump’s executive order on border security and immigration enforcement, including the potential effects and impact: 

Authority: In the order, Trump cites to the Constitution and federal laws, such as the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA), the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as grounds for his presidential authority.

The president may set the policy and practices of immigration agencies and officials, in compliance with federal law set by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

Purpose: The order directs departments and agencies to “deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation’s southern border, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely.”

Policy Highlights: 

1. Physical Wall. The executive order instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border. The Secretary must identify and allocate federal funds for planning, designing and constructing the wall.

“Wall” means “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier.” The “southern border” means “contiguous land border between the United States and Mexico, including all points of entry.”

2. Detention Facilities. The executive order instructs the Secretary to allocate resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico. The Secretary shall immediately assign asylum officers and immigration judges to detention facilities for the purpose of conducting reasonable fear determinations and removal proceedings, respectively.

3. Detention for Illegal Entry (End “Catch-and-Release”). The executive order instructs the Secretary to take immediate, appropriate actions to ensure the detention of aliens apprehended for violating immigration law, pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the U.S. The Secretary shall issue new policy guidance to all Department of Homeland Security personnel on detention use, including the termination of “catch and release,” which involves persons being released in the U.S. shortly after their apprehension, and while their removal proceedings are pending.

4. Additional Border Patrol Agents. The executive order instructs the Secretary to take appropriate action to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, and ensure they are assigned to duty as soon as is practicable.

5.  Foreign Aid Reporting. The executive order directs all executive departments and agencies to quantify federal aid or assistance to the Government of Mexico on an annual basis for the past 5 years.

6. Federal-State Agreements. The executive order instructs the Secretary to immediately engage with the Governors of the States, as well as local officials, to enter into INA 287(g) agreements. This allows for State and local law enforcement officials to perform functions of the immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension , or detention of aliens in the United States under the Secretary’s direction and supervision.

7. Parole, Asylum, and Removal.  The executive order instructs the Secretary to take immediate, appropriate action to ensure the parole and asylum provisions of immigration law are not exploited to prevent the removal of otherwise removable aliens.

8. Priority Enforcement. The executive order instructs the Attorney General to establish prosecution guidelines and allocate resources to ensure federal prosecutors give high priority to prosecutions of offenses connected to the southern border.

Effects and Impact:

1.  Building the wall 

The estimated cost of building the wall is at least $10 billion. During his election campaign, Trump stated Mexico will pay for it.  But his  executive order calls for the allocation of federal funds to plan, design and construct the wall. Congress must approve funding for any new physical barrier along the southern border. This means American taxpayers will front the cost for the wall.

Trump says Mexico will pay the money back later. His Administration suggested imposing a 20% tax on goods imported  from Mexico to pay for the wall. But experts say this will lead to higher prices for American consumers, result in trade wars, and jeopardize U.S. jobs.

Another idea floated by the Administration is seizing or taxing remittance payments from immigrants sending money earned in the U.S. (their country of residence) to their families in Mexico (their native country). Trump has said the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law may be used to accomplish this feat, but such an action will likely be met with legal battles, logistical obstacles, and economic drawbacks.

Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. taxpayers spent $90 billion on border security. The costs involve deploying National Guard troops to the border, paying U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, building barriers, employing drug-sniffing dogs, and using predator drones.

In 2006, under the Bush Administration, Boeing and other companies were awarded a federal contract, named Secure Border Initiative Net (SBInet), to build a high-tech, “virtual fence” along the southwest border. Most of the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the U.S includes desert plains, steep hills and other natural barriers that are hard to cross. At the time, about 88 miles of physical fencing existed and the U.S. government planned to increase the physical fences to 370 miles by the end of the following year.

The Obama Administration embraced SBInet, but cancelled the project in 2011, following mounting questions from Congress regarding feasibility, viability, cost and effectiveness. By that point, about $1 billion had been spent.

Skepticism concerning Trump’s proposed wall is warranted. John Kelly, who was recently sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security, said a physical barrier is not enough. In his confirmation hearing, he stated, “If you build a wall, you would still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, by sensors, by observation devices.”

2. Increasing Detentions and Expedited Removals

Enormous amounts of manpower, resources, and technology are already dedicated to securing the nation’s borders. In 2014, the number of Border Patrol agents grew to nearly 21,000, over a 500%  increase from 1992 when there were about 4,000 agents.

In July 2006, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, announced the  end of the”catch and release” policy. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began detaining more individuals while they wait for their immigration court dates. On average, in 2006, DHS detained 21,450 people on a daily basis, compared to over 40,000 this year.

DHS also increased the issuance of expedited removal orders to persons caught at the border, rather than allow them to return without the legal consequences of a removal. In 2014, DHS removed 414,481 persons, compared to 280,974 persons in 2006.

Trump’s executive order aims to increase the size of the enforcement agencies, create more detention facilities for persons apprehended along the southern border, and end “catch and release.”

Although the “catch and release” policy ended under the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration issued a Policy Memorandum on the apprehension, detention and removal or undocumented immigrants, which some labeled as “catch and release 2.0”. The policy divided enforcement priorities into three general categories: Priority 1: Aliens who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety. Priority 2: Aliens who are misdemeanants and new immigration violators.  Priority 3: All other immigration violators.

The Policy Memorandum instructed the agencies to focus on priority one and priority two offenders, instead of wasting resources on arresting and detaining priority three offenders. Because Trump’s executive order does not make these distinctions, it gives immigration enforcement agents more freedom to apply the detention and expedited removal process to all persons who they find ineligible for relief, particularly those apprehended at the border.

Federal funds must be allocated to operate detention facilities and detain hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year. The use of detention facilities is a very costly way to deter illegal crossings or other immigration violations. More affordable alternatives include parole/release on own recognizance, bonds, regular check-ins with immigration agents, regular home visits and check-ins, telephonic monitoring, and electronic ankle bracelet monitoring.

The executive order, which claims abuse of parole and asylum provisions, could also result in due process issues for asylum-seeking families fleeing to the border. This includes women and children from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) with credible asylum claims. Human rights groups and immigration advocates have raised concerns about detaining individuals escaping violence and persecution in their home countries. There are more humane and cost-effective alternatives to detention.

3. Deputizing State and Local Law Enforcement Officers to Perform the Duties of Federal Immigration Agents

Section 287(g) of the INA allows delegation of immigration authority to state and local law enforcement officers.  The 287(g) program permits a state or local law enforcement entity to partner with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), under a joint Memorandum of Agreement, to enforce federal immigration law in their jurisdiction.

The 287(g) program was criticized for damaging public safety, being prone to racial profiling, and lacking oversight.  In 2009, ICE revised the 287(g) program to prioritize the arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants with criminal histories. In a December 2012 news release, ICE announced it would not renew any of its agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that operate task forces under the 287(g) program.

At that point, ICE concluded that other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases. Introduced in 2008, Secure Communities was a DHS program designed to identify immigrants in U.S. jails who are removable under immigration law. Participating jails sent the arrestee’s fingerprints not only to criminal databases, but also to immigration databases. No local law enforcement agencies were deputized to enforce immigration laws and ICE had only a technological presence in jails and prisons.

In November 2014, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, issued a memorandum discontinuing the Secure Communities program, and replacing it with the Priority Enforcement Program to focus on convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety. The memorandum instructed ICE to replace requests for detention (i.e., requests that an agency hold an individual beyond the point at which they would otherwise be released) with requests for notification (i.e. , requests that state or local law enforcement notify ICE of a pending release during the time that person is otherwise in custody under state or local authority).

Trump’s executive order promises to revive the 287(g) program, which allows states and localities to engage in immigration enforcement to supplement federal efforts. This practice can create mistrust of local law enforcement and involve the use of limited resources to detain and subsequently remove persons with only traffic stops or minor infractions.

With over 500,000 removal cases pending in fiscal year 2017, and immigrants facing years long delays before a judge makes a final decision on their case, the immigration court system is already heavily backlogged. 287(g) agreements fail to prioritize dangerous criminals over undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to public safety. They also tend to reduce cooperation from immigrant communities, which is crucial to preventing and investigating crimes.

Conclusion

Building a wall, increasing detention, and deputizing state and local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration law are consistent with Trump’s campaign promises. But they could very well backfire in the form of wasted taxpayers’ money, squandering of limited resources, unbearable pressure on the already backlogged immigration court system, and reduced cooperation between immigrant communities and their state and local law enforcement entities.

For information on Trump’s other executive orders on immigration, read:

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: Clive Darra

The Trump Factor on Immigration: To Fear or Not to Fear?

Donald Trump’s Administration will begin when Barack Obama’s ends on January 20, 2017. The risk of deportation is expected to get higher for unauthorized immigrants, particularly those with illegal entries and certain criminal histories. A Trump Administration could also repeal Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) and set the stage for H-1B (professional worker) visa reform.

These are just some of the potential changes in U.S. immigration, if you accept Trump’s rhetoric at face value.

Here’s how the Trump Factor could affect immigration if his 10 Point Plan to Put America First and election campaign promises are carried out: 

1. “Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one.”  (#1 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

“Build that wall! Build that wall!” was a popular chant at Trump’s campaign rallies. According to Trump, the wall would cover 1,000 miles of nearly 2,000 miles of the southern U.S-Mexico border, with half of that protected by natural barriers.

As of today, there are already 700 miles of border fencing and some of it includes metal wall. There are also U.S. Border Patrol agents, drones, scanners and cameras protecting the border. A record number of removals and returns occurred under Obama.

Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. taxpayers spent $90 billion on border security. The costs involve deploying National Guard troops to the border, paying U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, building barriers, employing drug-sniffing dogs, and using predator drones.

Whether “an impenetrable physical wall” is built will depend on various factors, including who pays for it. Trump says Mexico will foot the bill. Otherwise, it might take an act of Congress to obtain funding for the wall.

A wall is mostly symbolic. It’s not enough to keep out unauthorized immigrants, especially those possessing fraudulent travel documents or those misusing their visas or the visa waiver program. Border security requires constant monitoring by properly trained CBP agents.

2. “End catch-and release.” (#2 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

Ending the so-called “catch-and release” policy will bring more serious immigration consequences to noncitizens stopped at the border. Trump’s plan is to detain anyone who illegally crosses the border until he/she is removed from the country.

In November 2014, the Obama Administration issued a Policy Memorandum on the apprehension, detention and removal of undocumented immigrants. The policy divided enforcement priorities into three general categories:

Priority 1: Aliens who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety.

Priority 2: Aliens who are misdemeanants and new immigration violators.

Priority 3: All other immigration violators.

The Policy Memorandum instructs the agencies to focus on priority one and priority two offenders. If the Memorandum is withdrawn by Trump, each local ICE agency will have more freedom to decide who it wants to remove from the U.S.

Policy Memorandums are opinion letters from agency heads instructing CBP, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) how to enforce current law. The Trump Administration may readily revoke Policy Memorandums, and replace them with new, hard-line ones – consistent with laws already passed by Congress

While the Obama Administration prioritized the removal of criminal non-citizens and repeat offenders, Trump has vowed to detain all persons who enter the U.S. illegally and spare no group of unauthorized immigrants. This spells an increase in immigration detention, removal proceedings before immigration courts, and expedited removal at the border or ports of entries.

Resources are limited. If there is no formal prioritization for immigration enforcement, more immigration judges and prosecutors will be needed to prevent increased backlog in the removal system.

3. “Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement.” (#3 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

Criminal aliens” is a very broad term. “Aliens” include lawful permanent residents (green card holders) because they are not U.S. citizens. Criminal offenses range from misdemeanors to felonies.  There are various types of crimes, such as DUI, assault, drug possession, theft, fraud, domestic violence, and murder.

Criminal convictions can lead to a non-citizen being deported from the U.S., denied entry (or reentry) into the U.S., and stripped of immigration benefits, including permanent residence. The immigration consequences continue long after the person has already served his sentence.

But under current immigration law, not all non-citizens with criminal offenses are subject to removal or denial of entry on crime-related grounds. For example, a noncitizen is deportable if convicted of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (other than a political offense), but only when it was committed within five years after the date of his admission to the U.S., and for which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed.

In addition, the U.S. Constitution provides due process and equal protection to all persons, including “criminal aliens. ” In a 2001 case, Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that the due process clause applies to aliens whose presence may be or is “lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.”

Existing immigration law also permits defenses against removal and applications for relief from removal before the Immigration Court, if the person is eligible.

Due to Constitutional rights, legal obstacles, and limited cooperation from certain local law enforcement agencies, it will be very difficult for the Trump Administration to move criminal aliens out day one.

Still, Trump will get help from the U.S. Attorney General, who is in charge of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, including the immigration courts. The office sets standards for hiring and selecting immigration judges, and for training them on how to apply immigration law.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been picked by Trump for Attorney General and, if confirmed, will influence immigration policy. The Attorney General may issue legal opinions to promote executive actions; hire more hard-line judges for federal immigration courts; and challenge the legality of state immigration policies.

4. “End sanctuary cities.” (#4 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

Since Trump’s election, many “sanctuary” counties and cities, like New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco and Seattle have vowed to limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. They won’t stop immigration authorities from enforcing federal law within their boundaries. But they will focus on local law enforcement so residents don’t avoid talking to the police out of fear of deportation risks.

An “immigration hold” (detainer) is one of the key tools ICE agents use to apprehend individuals who come in contact with local and state law enforcement agencies and place them in the federal removal process.

An ICE detainer is a written request to a local jail or other law enforcement agency to detain persons for an additional 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) after their release date to permit ICE to decide whether to take them into federal custody for removal purposes. ICE detainers are not followed in some counties and they have been challenged in federal courts.

Threats to cut federal funding to “sanctuary” counties and cities do not make an effective long-term strategy.

5. “Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties.”  (#5 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

During his two-term Administration, Obama has never granted “amnesty” – at least not to the extent that President Reagan did when he signed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that permitted 3 million undocumented immigrants to apply for lawful immigrant status.

Through executive policy, Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on June 15, 2012. DACA was made available to undocumented immigrants who were under the age of 31 and who came to the U.S. before age 16. Certain other eligibility requirements also have to be met, such as no conviction of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and no threat to national security or public safety.

While DACA provides relief from removal, work authorization, and authorized stay in the U.S., it does not offer a path to permanent residence or citizenship or provide lawful immigration status in the U.S. Moreover, USCIS may share the information in a DACA request with national security and law enforcement agencies, including ICE and CBP, for purposes other than deportation, including to identify or prevent fraudulent claims, for national security purposes, or for the investigation or prosecution of a crime.

The expanded DACA and new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs, that were expected to kick in on February 18, 2015 and May 19, 2015, respectively, were put on hold by a federal court injunction.

In a February 16, 2015 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas sided with the Texas-led coalition of 26 states that filed a lawsuit to block the implementation of the expanded DACA and the new DAPA. Then in a June 23, 2016 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the judgement in a 4-4 decision, effectively blocking the programs from being rolled out.

DACA and DAPA were intended to protect undocumented immigrants in low-priority categories from removal and bring them out of the shadows. But in his 10 Point Plan, Trump notes, “Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws in this country.” Taken literally, this statement reveals that even undocumented immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, and who grew up in the U.S., do not have to be considered low priority for removal.

There is a growing fear of detention and removal among DACA recipients, who listed on the DACA applications all their residential addresses from the time they entered the U.S. Locating DACA recipients is easier than finding undocumented immigrants who never applied for the relief.

Some immigration attorneys are advising DACA recipients to avoid filing for renewals at this time, until the future of the program is decided after Trump takes office. Others recommend DACA renewals be filed while the program is still intact.

During his campaign, Trump promised to rescind such executive actions and orders by Obama. He may revoke DACA altogether or issue an order preventing new DACA applications or renewals. Whether the Trump Administration will use the addresses on the DACA applications to initiate removal proceedings is a concern. But for practical, political and financial reasons, Trump will likely prioritize removal of unauthorized immigrants with serious criminal records, just like Obama.

A repeal of Obama’s executive actions does not prevent immigrant relief passed by Congress. On December 9, 2016, Sen. Dick Durbin (D. Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced legislation called the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow Our Economy (BRIDGE Act), to protect persons who would otherwise qualify for DACA.

6. “Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.” (#6 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

The President sets the number of refugees who will resettle in the U.S. each year. The Obama Administration met its target of settling at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. by the end of fiscal year 2016. On the other hand, Trump expressed his intent to halt the Syrian refugee program and “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.” The regions include Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, which produce half of the world’s refugees.

The Trump Administration could also implement additional security protocols to make it harder for applicants who are Muslim, believed to be Muslim, or from Muslim-majority countries to obtain visas, especially tourist/visitor visas and other nonimmigrant visas. Trump may issue an executive order to temporarily suspend or cancel entry to the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas from target countries. Even if such a policy is eventually struck down by the courts, it will slow down visa processing for all applicants.

The processing of I-130 (family-based) and I-140 (employment-based) immigrant petitions, which is the first step in obtaining an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate, is unlikely to be affected by a Trump Administration. Filing fees, not tax dollars, provide funding for USCIS’ review of immigrant petitions. The availability of immigrant petitions in the family-based and employment-based categories is also governed by statutory law, not by the President.

Immigrant-based visas such as the F-1 fiance visa and CR immigrant visa already have strict requirements. Nevertheless, the Trump Administration could suspend the issuance of such visas until more vetting mechanisms are implemented.

6. “Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.” (#10 on Trump’s 10 Point Plan)

Legal immigration is governed by regulations and legislation, not by a President’s executive action. The President’s immigration policy must operate within the bounds of existing law. The President has limited power to regulate and deregulate. Only Congress has power to introduce and pass immigration laws.

Regulation

A regulation is much harder to rescind than an executive order. The Administrative Procedure Act requires all regulations to be published in the Federal Register, undergo public notice-and-comment, receive financial consideration by the Office of Management and Budget, and be finalized for rulemaking. The I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver is one example of a regulation.

Under statute passed by Congress, a person is generally barred from reentering the U.S. for 3 years if he accrued more than 180 days to less than 1 year of unlawful presence before leaving the U.S. The bar to reentry is 10 years if the unlawful presence lasted 1 year or more. The 3/10 year bar is triggered when the person departs the U.S. (without advance parole) to apply for an immigrant visa. The unlawful presence waiver, which is available under statutory law, excuses certain eligible persons from the 3/10 year bar.

On March 4, 2013, the Obama Administration introduced the I-601A regulation modifying the process for applying for the unlawful presence waiver. It allows eligible immigrant visa applicants to file for the waiver while they are still in the U.S. if the 3/10 year bar is the only ground that prohibits reentry to the U.S. The final rule expanding the I-601A waiver to all statutorily eligible applicants went into effect on August 29, 2016.

A new President may suspend the effective date of regulations that have yet to take effect. During the suspension, the Administration decides whether to begin a regulatory process to repeal the regulation and prevent it from taking effect. For regulations passed in approximately the last eight months of the prior Administration, the new Administration may ask Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn a recently issued regulation. The Act, however, may not be used on any regulations issued before May 2016.

If Trump wants to change or cut the I-601A waiver process, he will have to introduce a new regulation, have the regulation go through public notice-and-comment, make adjustments, and then have the final rule published. While elimination of the I-601A process is possible, this does not seem to be a high priority for Trump.

Legislation

Legislation, passed by Congress, is the toughest to repeal and replace. Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been discussed extensively, but no new broad bills have been enacted for decades. Although the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, they do not all agree with Trump’s proposed plans.

Permanent changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs legal immigration, including which persons are eligible for permanent residence, naturalization, or relief from removal,  requires an act of Congress. Legislative changes require approval of bills by both the House and Senate.  The President has limited veto power.

Trump’s 10 Point Plan promises to return U.S. jobs to U.S. workers. He vowed to suspend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a three-country accord negotiated by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., which went into effect on January 1994. The treaty contains the TN visa category for professionals from Mexico and Canada.  If Trump suspends NAFTA, the TN visa could also go away.

Trump has also criticized the H-1B professional program. With an annual cap of 65,000 per year, plus an additional 20,000 for foreign workers with a U.S. master’s degree or higher, the H-1B program is subject to legislative changes by Congress.

With U.S. business interests at stake, and general support of the H-1B program from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the nature of H-1B reform (if any) is uncertain. An expansion of the H-1B visa program is unlikely if the Republican-controlled Congress falls in line with Trump’s promises. Instead, Congress could introduce an American-worker-first element that requires recruitment of U.S. workers prior to filing an H-1B petition for a foreign worker.

To Fear or Not to Fear? 

Trump’s 10 Point Plan and campaign promises are a legitimate source of fear for immigrant communities. But campaign talk is not always followed by action. U.S. Presidents lack unfettered power, fail to carry out plans, and do the opposite or a watered-down version of what they said they would do.

No one can fully predict the impact of a Trump Administration on immigration. Uncertainty breeds fear. But the fear is not necessarily based on reality.

If you are an undocumented immigrant or noncitizen with concerns about removal from the U.S. or being denied entry into the U.S., your best step is to consult an immigration attorney about your options under current law, regulation or policy. An experienced and attentive attorney can also guide you through immigration changes under a new Administration.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: BBC World Service

Why hire an immigration lawyer when immigration consultants and online immigration services offer lower rates?

The current political climate and 2016 election of Donald Trump for U.S. President have fueled fear among immigrant groups. Amidst the anti-immigrant rhetoric, it’s important to discuss your options in legalizing your status or securing the appropriate visa with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Why hire a lawyer when there is lower-cost help available through immigration consultants and online immigration services? The reasons are many, from ensuring you receive accurate advice to avoiding unnecessary delays.

The main advantages of hiring a reputable and trusted immigration lawyer, instead of depending on an immigration consultant or online immigration service are:

1. You receive guidance on which forms and documents to submit

A lawyer is not required to fill out application forms for immigration benefits. Anyone can complete the forms, which are, along with the instructions, available for free on U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of State’s websites.

But U.S. government agencies are not your advocates and do not consider your individual situation when providing resources and information to you. Only an immigration lawyer, who truly understands the eligibility requirements, can give you the most reliable advice on which forms and documents to submit to receive immigration benefits.

Legitimate immigration consultants and online immigration processors can certainly help you complete forms and submit the paperwork to USCIS and DOS at a much lower cost than what lawyers charge.

Nevertheless, your knowing which forms and documents to submit is not always clear by just reading instructions or doing your own research. Immigration consultants and online immigration services are prohibited from giving any legal advice concerning your immigration case, including which forms and documents to submit. Rather, you yourself have to make this determination before they then fill out the forms with your answers and prepare the documents you have given them for filing with the appropriate U.S. government agency.

Even qualified immigration consultants and highly-rated online immigration services are just document preparers. While they are distinguishable from shady Notarios who prey on vulnerable immigrant groups and engage in immigration scams, they provide limited service that does not always meet your immigration needs.

Questions on applications forms and questions from immigration or consular officers might seem simple, but often relate to legal issues that can result in denials and setbacks in your case. Immigration consultants and online immigration processors cannot counsel you on how to best answer a question or cross-check or verify your answers on the forms. All they can do is replicate and type out your responses to the questions asked on the forms.

When non-lawyer immigration consultants or online immigration processors advise you on which immigration benefit to apply for and how to prove you qualify for it, they essentially engage in unauthorized practice of law.

In contrast, immigration lawyers advise you on which exact forms and documents to submit for a particular immigration benefit. They will cross check your answers on application forms with your biographic and immigration records to help ensure accuracy and completeness. They will also counsel you on the implications of your answers to questions, as well as the effects of providing or not providing certain documents.

2. You get legal advice on how to best present your case

A good lawyer will counsel you on eligibility standards and evidentiary requirements, including those that are not spelled out in the instructions for forms or are otherwise readily known.

For instance, while an immigration consultant or online immigration service will accept your marriage certificate and divorce decrees for prior marriages as sufficient in an I-130 spousal immigrant petition, a lawyer will counsel you on additional documents to submit to prove your marriage is valid and bona fide.

A lawyer might be unnecessary in very simple cases, where the bare minimum is all that’s required to get the case approved. But in many cases, a high volume of documentary evidence, as well as credible testimony, are needed to achieve a favorable outcome.

One of the fastest growing online immigration processors, RapidVisa, states specifically that it does not give legal advice or representation, but offers a service similar to TurboTax for visa applications. At a low price, they provide online processing of K-1 fiancée visas, spousal visas, parent visas, green cards (adjustment of status), removal of conditions, citizenship (naturalization), joint sponsorship, and deferred action (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, under President Obama).

RapidVisa boasts an approval rate of 99.7% and 4-hour turnaround time. But it’s fair to say that these cases most likely had no complications to require the work of a lawyer, and could have been handled just as well by an applicant who was willing and able to deal with the paperwork alone.

Reputable immigration lawyers, who have the expertise to deal with the worst types of cases, are best equipped to help you present the strongest case possible. They can steer you away from pitfalls that lead to complications in your case, such as USCIS issuing a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny Petition. They are trained to spot issues and weaknesses that can tank your case. Unlike immigration consultants and online immigration processors, they do not merely rely on generic templates and checklists that do not account for unique situations.

3. You obtain verification on whether you actually qualify for the benefit sought

An immigration lawyer will gather facts and review your record to confirm whether you are eligible for the immigration benefit you seek. For example, under current law, you cannot apply for a marriage-based green card within the U.S. if you were not lawfully admitted to the U.S. with inspection, and you do not qualify for 245(i) benefits. If your immigrant petition is not in the immediate relative category, you may not file for adjustment to permanent residence unless you are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status after entry as an F-1 student, H-1B worker, etc. or certain narrow exceptions apply.

Immigration consultants and online immigration processors are not equipped or authorized to verify your eligibility for a benefit sought. They cannot give advice as to which immigration status you should seek. These are legal issues that requires a lawyer’s guidance, especially when there are complications in your case.

Complications include marriage/divorce complications, visa overstays, unlawful presence, prior removal orders, illegal entries and re-entries to the U.S., immigration fraud or willful misrepresentation, false claims to U.S. citizenship, a criminal record, and being from a high-fraud country.

In June 2016, the State of Colorado passed a law that forced RapidVisa to relocate out of Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las Vegas, Nevada, where regulations related to the document-preparation industry are favorable. Known as Immigration Consultants Deceptive Trade Practice, the Colorado law targets deceptive “notarios”, which are small operations common in Hispanic communities, but it further forbids any person from offering any immigration service, regardless of whether it involves practicing law, unless that person is a lawyer.

In a press release, Ben Ives, President of RapidVisa, stated “this was simply a case of lawyers protecting their income.” He noted, “Petitioning for a family visa is a benefit request, not a legal issue. Do you hire a lawyer to apply for your driver’s license?”

Contrary to Mr. Ives’ claim, applying for an immigration benefit involves many legal issues that determine whether a person can live, study or work in the U.S., and even visit the country. Filing for an immigration benefit has a much more serious and broader impact than applying for a driver’s license.

A U.S. citizen’s decision to bring a fiancée, spouse,  or parent to the U.S. , for example, affects the fate of the family and their reunification.  An applicant’s mistake in filing for an immigration benefit, such as a green card or citizenship, for which he does not qualify can sometimes lead him into removal proceedings and get him deported from the United States.

4. You have comprehensive counseling from start to finish

In the initial evaluation of your case, and during the course of representation, an immigration lawyer can identify your priorities and pinpoint issues to help you achieve your objectives. They can lay out your various options and describe the pros and cons of pursuing each path.

An immigration lawyer can guide you on how to avoid complications or address them as they arise, such as responding to a Request for Evidence, a Notice of Intent to Deny, a Notice of Intent to Revoke, or a denial decision. He or she can intervene on your behalf to resolve problems.

An immigration lawyer can also prepare you for interviews before USCIS and the U.S. Consulates by describing what questions to expect and which issues are likely to arise, and how to best address them. They can appear with you at green card interviews and naturalization interviews to help protect your rights, present documentary information, and ask clarifying questions. They can further prepare and submit a legal brief to stave off concerns and persuade the officer to approve your case.

Lawyers must keep up with changes in the law, the risks (not just the benefits) of applying for immigration relief, and the nuances in the immigration process, and advise you accordingly.

A non-lawyer immigration consultant or online immigration processor cannot perform these vital services.

5. You get legal help from a licensed professional who is held to the highest ethical standards

When an immigration consultant or online immigration processor overlooks critical pieces of information or documents, which results in an avoidable denial or delay, there is generally no recourse. You typically have to rectify the harm through their channels or file a consumer complaint with the state attorney general.

Lawyers, on the other hand, are held to ethical standards set forth in their state rules of professional conduct. They can face disciplinary action, such as a suspension or disbarment, for failing to perform duties owed to clients. As a licensed professional, a lawyer has obligations and responsibilities that go above and beyond those of a non-lawyer immigration service.

Consult an immigration attorney at the very least 

Some states, such as California, Minnesota, and New York regulate the conduct of immigration consultants, instead of forbid them from performing any immigration service. While they may provide document preparation, they cannot offer legal advice in any situation.

Legitimate immigration consultants and online immigration processors can ease the stress that comes with handling the immigration paperwork yourself. But realize they do nothing more than document preparation. A complete reliance on non-lawyer immigration services gives you a false sense of security and could open you up to making mistakes and bungling your immigration matter.

Reliable legal representation may be more affordable than you assume. There are solo practitioners and small firm lawyers who charge reasonable fees for high-quality, comprehensive service. There are also non-profit legal service providers and pro-bono attorneys who will accept your case for sliding scale or reduced fees or no fees.

Almost everyone can gather funds to consult an experienced immigration lawyer at least once, or retain unbundled legal service to address the complicated parts of the case. Before you file for an immigration benefit, talk to a reputable immigration lawyer about the eligibility standards, documentary requirements and filing process. Relying on immigration consultants and online immigration processors can save you money upfront, but cost you a lot more in the long run.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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