Tips for Immigrants Pending New Executive Orders
Currently, we are waiting to see how the recent executive order from January 25, 2017 will be enforced. A lot of people, understandably, want to know what steps they can take know to protect themselves in case of the worst-case scenario. Here are steps you can take now if you are a Naturalized U.S. Citizen, Lawful Permanent Resident, Visa Holder, or an Undocumented Immigrant.
- Naturalized U.S. citizens. In particular if you are traveling within 100 miles of any US Border (including the oceans), it is recommended that you carry with you your US passport, or passport card, or a photocopy of your naturalization certificate. Because of the unpredictability of the current situation, keep a photocopy of these documents in a safe place at your home, so that if necessary, someone will have access to them. You may very well need to prove your US Citizenship.
- Permanent residents. Federal law requires that anyone who is NOT a US Citizen carry with them at all times evidence of their lawful status. So, carry your green card with you at all times! As noted for US citizens, 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. You should also renew your green card a full 6 months before expiration. If your green card has expired, renew it now. Consider starting the process to naturalize immediately! If traveling back from a lengthy trip abroad, do not sign any documents at the border if it is alleged that you have abandoned your residency. Only an immigration judge can take away your status as a permanent resident.
- Lawfully present nonimmigrants ( DACA, U Visa, EADs, Visitors, Students, H1Bs, etc.). Carry with you at all times your Employment Authorization Document (work permit), 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.
- 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. Again, keep this information at home so that it is accessible to someone who can help you. 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 communicate that clearly so that you may apply for asylum.
- Undocumented Immigrants with 10 years in the United States and United States Citizen children. Absent criminal convictions, you may be eligible for relief and release on bond. Begin now to prepare the paperwork you will need to secure a bond and to prove your case. Set aside copies of birth certificates of children and proof that you have been here for at least ten years. Don’t be caught unprepared!
- Non-US Citizens (Permanent Residents, Visa Holders, and Undocumented Immigrants) who have a criminal conviction OR are arrested. If you have a criminal conviction, or are even arrested for a crime, you may be detained by ICE. If you have relief from removal, you may be eligible for bond. Prepare for this by saving money for bond now and have the paperwork organized to help your attorney act quickly. If you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense, work with attorneys to fight and avoid a conviction that will have immigration consequences.
- 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. There may be an increase in the number of people charged with this crime. Depending on why you were deported you can spend many years in federal prison for reentering the US. Again, start preparing a plan now to handle this situation. If you have a deportation order and never left, NOW is the time to speak to an immigration attorney, obtain a copy of your file from the government, and seek advice about your options to reopen your case. Understand your immigration history!
- 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. Put copies of documents in a secure place. Memorize the phone number of a relative or of an attorney.
- Remember: Don’t panic. Get informed, know your rights, know your options, and make a plan!