Real-Life Story: The Traps People Don't See

Real-Life Story: The Trap…

By Alary E. Piibe

I attended a green card interview with my client today and walked away with a sense of relief that I had been there to help. This is a long-time client of almost 20 years, and during all this time the government has been trying to deport him. After today, he may finally get his green card but he could not have done it on his own; the system is extremely complicated and full of traps that the average person will never escape without experienced counsel.

Along the way, the case and my client have undergone numerous misfortunes, twists and turns, and dozens of changes in the law. He also has more lives than a cat when it comes to his interactions with immigration law. He accidentally crossed the border over to Mexico twice during his lengthy residency here—unheard of!-- but we were able to dissect the facts and the law. Aside from amounting to an automatic deportation order, departure from the U.S. virtually strangles a case even if the person returns to the U.S. later.

We had to patiently address each consequence, and we not only steered him away from the trap of a deportation order, but other latent traps as well which flowed from these two accidents: the Judge fighting against reopening our client’s old deportation case; the government starting a duplicate deportation case; and the notorious “3/10 bar” which punishes people and bars them from obtaining green cards if they leave the U.S. after unlawful presence here. We also successfully challenged a border patrol officer’s incomplete report where it alleged that a third departure from the U.S. had occurred, but our client adamantly insisted otherwise. Finally, we guided him through the web of laws around adjustment of status and demonstrated his eligibility for a green card based upon a parole order which occurred in the midst of the chaos.

At every turn, we had to argue the legal effect of the latest development, and many times educate immigration officers and judges about brand-new legal precedent and interpretations. And his case turned into a complex maze as it branched out into two jursidictions that do not cooperate with each other: Immigration Court (deportation) and USCIS Benefits (green card). Attorney General Sessions’ latest mandates to the Immigration Courts tells them they cannot wait for USCIS to make decisions on green cards, and that they must deport people even if they are close to becoming permanent residents. Now our next battle will be to challenge this unconstitutional rule in the event USCIS fails to make a decision on our client’s green card before his next deportation hearing.

The immigration system is not easy but fortunately I have worked in it for twenty years, and I am exposed to cross-issues and procedural puzzles that let me guide this particular client through. The USCIS officer was overwhelmed just by looking at the size of this file, but I quickly brought him up to date and explained why my client qualified for the green card. Understandably, most people in my client’s shoes would have given up at several points throughout this lengthy history, because the traps just piled on and on and on. The battle continues but I am grateful to have been of help so far.