Are you a Naturalized U.S. Citizen, Lawful Permanent Resident, Visa Holder, or an Undocumented Immigrant? We recommend you take the following steps to protect yourself in our current version of America.
The last couple of weeks have reminded immigrants, even naturalized U.S. citizens, that they were not born in the United States. Our office has received countless phone calls, emails, and social media messages from people worrying about what their family’s future in the United States holds.
Most people want to know what they can do now to protect themselves from what promises to be a wave of anti-immigration activity by the federal government. Trump's Executive Order on Interior Enforcement has some provisions that should make most Americans shiver. We recommend the following actions for each of the following groups:
- Naturalized U.S. citizens. In particular if you have a foreign accent, and you are traveling within 100 miles of any US Border (including the oceans), we strongly recommend carrying with you your US passport, or passport card, or a photocopy of your naturalization certificate. Because of the unpredictability of the current situation, we recommend keeping a photocopy of these documents in a safe place at your home, so that if necessary, someone will have access to it. You may very well need to prove your US Citizenship.
- Permanent residents. Most people don't know this, but federal law requires that anyone who is NOT a US Citizen is required to carry with them at all times, evidence of their lawful status. You can see that for yourself at 8 USC 1304(e). So, carry your green card with you at all times! You should also keep a photocopy of your green card in a safe place at home so that it can be accessed by someone in case you lose your card and you need it to identify yourself. Don't forget about that 100 mile constitution free zone! You should also renew your green card a full 6 months before expiration. Don't wait! If your green card has expired, renew it now. And, if it is not obvious at this point, you should start the process to naturalize immediately!
- Lawfully present nonimmigrants (e.g. DACA, U Visa, EADs, Visitors, Students, H1Bs, etc.).Carry with you at all times your Employment Authorization Document, I-94 card, passport with entry stamp, or other proof of lawful presence (see the law above). Carry the original with you and keep a photocopy in a safe place at home, especially if you are within the 100 mile border area (more than 60% of the US population lives in this zone).
- Undocumented immigrants in the US for more than two years. Keep with you at all times evidence that you have been present for at least two years. Why? Because President Trump just ordered DHS to examine activating a never used provision in immigration law that allows for the immediate removal from the US of anyone who cannot prove they have been here for two years (absent a claim for asylum). We do not know when ICE or CBP might activate the change, but we need to be prepared. Evidence that you might want with you are utility bills, receipts, Facebook posts, mail or any other documentation with your name going back two years, BUT, be very careful of using pay stubs if you have used false documents or information to get your job, as those are prosecutable offenses. Again you should also keep this information at home so that it is accessible to someone who can help you. Keep a photocopy at home. And, make sure you have a family plan in place to call for legal assistance if you fail to return home as usual.
- Undocumented immigrants in the US for less than two years. The bad news is that you need a plan in place on what will happen to your belongings and your family if you do not return home from work, shopping, or school. Make sure your relatives know they can look for your name on the ICE detainee website. We assume that ICE and CBP will not release you on bond, and that if you have a fear or returning home, you will need to be VERY vocal about letting everyone know if you are detained.
- Undocumented Immigrants with 10 years in the United States and children. You are eligible for Cancellation of Removal, and release on bond. Begin now to prepare the paperwork you will need to secure a bond, and to prove your case. You can read more about this process here. Don't be caught unprepared!
- Non-US Citizens (Permanent Residents, Visa Holders, and Undocumented Immigrants) who have a criminal convictions OR are arrested. If you have a criminal conviction, or are even arrested for a crime, ICE has begun to detain people in this category and has released only a very few on bond. If you have relief from removal, you are eligible for bond, but, depending on where you are, you may not be released. Prepare for this by saving money for bond now, and have the paperwork organized so that our attorneys can quickly help seek a bond.
- Undocumented Immigrants with prior deportation orders. If you have a prior deportation order and have returned to the United States, you are subject to prosecution by the federal government for the crime of reentry after deportation. President Trump has ordered his U.S. Attorneys to increase the number of people charged with this crime. Depending on WHY you were deported (for example a serious criminal offense), you can spend up to five years in federal prison for reentering the US. Again, make your plans now about how you want to deal with this situation. If you have a deportation order and never left, NOW is the time to speak to an immigration attorney and seek advice about your options to reopen your deportation case.
- For those Arrested by ICE, especially for the undocumented--Have a plan in place. Decide now who picks up the kids from school/daycare, who will be authorized to do so with the school, who to contact first, have a power of attorney prepared for this. In the last few weeks we have heard of parents being picked up at school bus stops and at work and home while the kids are in school. Once it happens, there is no time to make arrangements.
Also, do your research now into immigration attorneys that you may call in a moment’s notice. Keep their phone number handy and ready for family and friends to use. Or better yet, go see an excellent immigration attorney now and see what options you may have available to you.