Common Misconceptions about DC Immigration Cases

I enjoy working in immigration because I am aware of the implications of what a favorable outcome means for a family. Once a family member can enter as a non-immigrant worker, he can now send money back to his family back home and improve their standard of living. Once someone acquires lawful permanent resident status, then that individual can begin petitioning for certain family members to come join them, and that person can now be on the path to acquiring citizenship. Once someone acquires citizenship, they can enjoy the privileges and freedoms enjoyed by all Americans. These are significant life events that alter the path of entire families.

Understanding Legal Timeframes

There are plenty of misconceptions about immigration law and the immigration process. One of the general misconceptions is about timing. Individuals want to know a definitive time as to when USCIS or the Immigration Court will complete a certain process or adjudicate an application. While the immigration attorney can provide an estimate, there is just no certain path. USCIS gives estimated processing times, but every case can have individual hiccups that will delay the process. Having a person’s case adjudicated in a particular court will sometimes mean they will have to wait longer because there are more cases than there are judges to adjudicate them in certain jurisdictions.

What is Temporary Protected Status?

There are misconceptions about the life of non-citizens and undocumented people in the United States.  One of the most common case-specific misconceptions is believing that merely residing in the United States for many years in undocumented status (or any other non-immigrant status) can lead to a Green Card without any other underlying petitions being filed.

For instance, I have many individuals who have been living in the US with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who ask about applying for a Green Card based upon simply residing in the US for ten years or more. When asked if they are eligible for a family petition or have an employer willing to file a petition on their behalf the answer is “no.” These individuals are conflating their time living in the US and an immigration benefit that only exists in removal proceedings called Cancellation of Removal Certain Non-Permanent Residents.

Another misconception is that lawful permanent residents can use their Green Cards as a “visa for life,” and enter and exit the United States at will, so long as they enter every 6 months.  That is just not the case.  A lawful permanent resident is just that; someone who intends to reside in the U.S. and maintains a residence in the US I have had plenty of clients abandon their  Green Cards mistakenly by constantly entering and leaving the United States and not establishing residency.

Other Immigrant Misconceptions

Other misconceptions include the belief of lawful permanent residents that as long as their criminal charges are misdemeanors, that they are somehow protected from removal.  Unfortunately, that is just not the case.  A non-citizen facing criminal prosecution should always consult with an immigration attorney as to the immigration consequences of an alleged crime before accepting any pleas and moving forward with a trial.

Defining Experiences that Lead to Immigration Law

Certainly my personal experience in dealing with the INS and thereafter the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) when my family and I applied for permanent status in the United States was eye-opening, but the most significant experience that reinforced my desire to practice immigration law was the slew of anti-immigrant legislation that was being proposed throughout the country at the time I was attending law school.

I was interning at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), an immigration non-profit agency, and I was able to provide legal analysis of the anti-immigrant legislation throughout the country.  This gave advocates on the ground the talking points necessary to speak to their state representatives to stop the approval process of these provisions. This experience highlighted the fact that the injustices suffered by undocumented individuals and other non-citizens in between status are unique. These non-citizens lack legal protection and social protections and these are precisely the issues that emboldened my desire to practice law.