April Cockerham on Hiring an Immigration Attorney

The following is taken from an interview with DC Immigration lawyer April Cockerham as she answers questions about considerations when looking for an immigration attorney. Call today and schedule a free consultation to learn more.

What Factors Should You Consider When Hiring An Immigration Attorney?

One good place to start is to make sure they’re a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, of which I’m a member of the DC chapter. The most important thing is to have someone who is really current on the law. Immigration law can change very quickly, despite the fact that it’s taking an eternity to pass comprehensive immigration reform. But things change all the time through new developments in case law, administrative procedures in the courts, practices of the consulates around the world and USCIS field offices here in the U.S., and through ICE enforcement priorities and procedures. It’s very important to have somebody who is incredibly up-to-date, because things change so quickly.

What Are Your Expectations For Immigration Reform in The Future?

I am very hopeful. Congress is very unpredictable, and a lot depends on what they decide to do, but I am very hopeful. This is a historically unique time period, where immigration reform has a real chance. People on both sides acknowledge the fact that the system is broken in many different ways. The more knowledge you have about the immigration system, the more you realize how illogical, antiquated, and broken the entire system is. Whether you want amnesty or to build a 100,000 wall at the border, both sides realize that something needs to be done to the current system. I’m hopeful that the tide is turning in favor of creating a path to citizenship. If that does happen, it’s going to drastically change the landscape of immigration law. The numbers vary, but there are over 11 million people here in the United States without legal immigration status. Many of those people have been here for years or decades, and the United States is their home. They have family here. They have connections here. They consider themselves Americans, and, yet, they are without options. If people’s individual stories could be heard, that would change a lot of minds about immigration reform.

The biggest effect of immigration reform will be that it will touch the people who are left out of the system as it is right now. There are many people who come in and think, “I’ve been here for ten years, I have US citizen kids, and I paid my taxes every year. I must qualify for something,” One of the worst parts of my job is telling people that they do not fit into any of the slots that are available right now. Opening up a window for those people will be the biggest change.

What Can Someone Do To Help Their Situation If They do not Currently Qualify For a Visa?

In many cases, people are eligible for benefits that they didn’t even know existed. I run into that all the time. A good example of that is the U visa. A lot of times, people don’t know about it as an option. If somebody comes into my office and I evaluate their case and it looks like they have no options, one thing I encourage them to do is to live as if change is going to happen tomorrow. Make sure that you pay all your taxes. Make sure that you’re living as responsible of a life as you can, even though it’s sometimes difficult to get credit, etc., when you’re undocumented. Build a paper trail of your presence here as much as you possibly can. Make sure you do everything that you can to prepare yourself for when things do happen. Stay on top of the news, because there are minor changes that have been made to the system even in the last couple of years. It’s important to be ready when it does happen.