The current Presidential Administration’s stance on undocumented immigrants and their families has led to a rise in the number of deportations and family separations. The physical and psychological impact these policies have on individuals and families has been well documented, and the long-term impact is still unknown. However, any immigrant, documented or not, should educate themselves on their rights so that if faced with any question about their status, they are able to confidently handle the situation.
Law enforcement may not stop any individual and question them about their citizenship status simply because they appear to be of Latin or other descent. In order to stop and question someone, law enforcement must have reason to believe that the law is being broken. However, if you are stopped because of some other violation of law, questions about your status may be validly asked. If you believe you have been improperly targeted, regardless of your status, you should seek legal counsel.
Individuals that entered the country illegally as children were previously able to avail themselves of the protection of Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protected children and adults from deportation if they were brought into the country as children but were currently enrolled in school or college. However, the current administration has made it a point to try and repeal DACA, which would eliminate these protections. The matter is being litigated but for the time being, individuals who are current or previous DACA recipients may apply for continued protection. If you fall into this category and are concerned about deportation, speak with an immigration attorney to understand what steps should be taken to protect your status.
If you or someone you love has been detained because he or she is undocumented, current immigration laws do allow individuals to ask to remain in the country under certain conditions. Someone in removal proceedings may seek asylum, Cancellation of Removal, or have a petition filed on his or her behalf. An asylum claim requires, at a minimum, that a person to show a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Cancellation of Removal requires demonstrating presence in the U.S. for a certain number of years and a qualifying relative that will suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. These claims are challenging to prove, but with proper legal counsel it can happen.
“As always, if you are in the country as a documented immigrant, there are ways that you can legally bring your family to be with you,” said Natalia Segermeister, an Immigration and Deportation Attorney with Price Benowitz LLP Firm in Washington, D.C. Though the process is challenging and time-intensive, you are able to ensure that your family can live without fear of being deported.