I’m the oldest grandson on my father’s side of the family. My Jiddy and Sitty (arabic for grandfather and grandmother) immigrated to the US when they were in their 20s. My grandfather is 94 years old today. I enjoy hearing the stories of the struggle both of my grandparents endured to make a better life here in the US. They are from the mountains outside of Beirut, Lebanon. They came here legally, but completely understand the plight of those who need to escape the corruption in governments of the Middle East. Most of the middle eastern people are peace loving and want a better life for themselves and their children. I guess because I’ve grown up understanding how much better my life is due to the struggles my grandparents went through, deportation is a very personal subject to me. Living in Raleigh, I meet so many from different areas of the world. Personally, I’ve met some of the neatest people who are here on a temporary visa. They all want to stay. I’ve helped them contact an immigration attorney to see what options they have. I see and feel the fear and anxiety of those who are worried that they will need to return back to a place that there is no opportunity. I’ve researched as much as I can to help them stay. Fortunately, there are a few rules that may help.
First, most know that if you are married to a US citizen or permanent resident, or if a family member has filed a petition for you, you might be eligible to apply for a green card directly. Depending on how you entered the United States, you might need to go back to your home country to process the green card. But if not, you might be eligible to adjust your status to permanent residence here in the United States. If someone receives a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court or if you have been given an Immigration Hold while in custody, you need an attorney. Experienced lawyers should know how to defend you against deportation.
If one fears that they are in danger in your home country, you may qualify for relief from removal based on asylum or other related grounds. If you have a green card but have committed a crime, you may qualify for Cancellation of Removal. It is difficult to meet, but could qualify if they live in the US for 7 years since being legally admitted, have lived for 5 years with a green card before committing a crime or getting into removal proceeding, and if they’ve never been convicted of an aggravated felony for immigration purposes.
If you don’t have a green card or are undocumented, the law provides another way to avoid deportation, but it applies only in the rarest of cases. The applicant must show that they have lived in the US for 10 years and that their deportation would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a spouse, child, or parent who is a United States Citizen or permanent resident.
Some people are legally eligible for a visa. One visa that commonly comes up in removal proceedings is the U-visa that is specifically for people who have been the victim of certain serious crimes, have suffered serious and ongoing harm as a result, have reported the crimes to the police, and have cooperated in bringing the perpetrator to justice.
In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security released a few memos discussing the ability for ICE attorneys to grant immigrants prosecutorial discretion in very strong cases and to avoid deportation even when there is already a deportation order. If you have been targeted by ICE in a way that violated your constitutional rights, you should definitely get an attorney. This week a case was won on this.
Motions to Suppress are much more common in criminal court than in immigration court; however, in certain situations they can work in removal proceedings as well. If you win this difficult and rare motion, you may be able to completely terminate proceedings. There are also 212(h) waivers, 212(c) waivers and other legal statutes which allow people in certain situations to prevent or avoid deportation.
Finally, if you have no other viable option or if you would rather just be deported, you or an attorney can apply for you to leave voluntarily at your own expense. The judge will only grant this if you can show that you have enough money to buy your own passage, if you have a valid travel document, and if you can convince the judge that you will not stay beyond the set date of departure. It’s a much better way than to be deported. I believe deportation is unusually cruel in most cases, but understand that in some situations, it may be ok. It’s just hard to understand why just because we are born here, we are given so much. Those who work hard and risk their lives to come, should have opportunity, as well.