Stopping Deportation in its Tracks
In 2016, the United States (US) deported over 340,000 individuals. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued 240,000 Notices to Appear (NTAs), which initiates legal deportation proceedings. Deportation, referred to in official US government documentation as “removal,” can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, some reasons that an immigrant may face deportation include criminal history and/or unlawful entry or residence in the US.
Current political leaders, including President Trump, have erroneously suggested that many immigrants are criminals. Recently, the president commented on a massive migrant caravan approaching the US, stating it “criminals…are mixed in.” Obviously, such statements are blatantly false and misrepresent a large percentage of the US population. Even amongst those facing deportation, criminals are in the minority. About 39.9% of those deported in 2016 were criminals, which means that the majority of deportees (60.1%) committed no crime. Thus, many who face deportation have options available to them.
If you or a loved one face removal proceedings, there are several ways to stop deportation, even if a criminal conviction is involved. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) outlines ways that a person may receive reprieve from removal, though each option has specific requirements that must be met. No matter your situation, an expert immigration attorney can review your case details, provide valid options, and ensure you receive fair judicial consideration. Below are five ways that an immigration lawyer can help you stop or cancel deportation.
1. 212(c) Waiver or Cancellation of Removal
First of all, for lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green card holders, a possible route of deportation relief involves a 212(c) waiver or cancellation of removal. This option applies to those LPRs who have plead guilty or been convicted of a crime. Under US immigration law, criminal convictions are grounds for removal from the country. Yet, the INA allows for some LPRs with minor criminal convictions to regain their legal status under certain circumstances. As a result, immigrants can petition for this consideration if they meet specific requirements.
The focus of a 212(c) waiver or cancellation of removal is a person’s benefit to the community and country. Therefore, an eligible immigrant facing removal proceedings would need to prove that their moral character and place within the community and work force outweighs the small conviction in their past. If you have questions about attaining a cancellation of removal, a skilled immigration lawyer can guide you.
A 212(c) waiver or cancellation of removal may apply to you if you have:
- Had a valid green card for at least 5 years;
- Lived in the US continuously for at least 7 years;
- Not committed an “aggravated felony;”
- Not committed drug-related offenses; and
- Not received a 212(c) waiver or cancellation of removal before.
2. Adjustment of Status
Secondly, an immigration judge can order an adjustment of status and issue a green card for temporary or non-permanent residents. For example, visa holders or special status holders may be eligible for this deportation cancellation option. If awarded, this would confer lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and allow permanent residence in the US, effectively canceling removal proceedings.
You may be eligible for adjustment of status if you:
- Have lived in the US for a minimum of 10 years;
- Are of upstanding moral character;
- Have not committed any crimes considered deportable; and/or
- Have American relatives, such as children, who would experience extreme hardship should you be deported.
3. U-Visa Status
Thirdly, U-Visas are available to a specific subset of immigrants facing removal proceedings. Intended to protect victims, U-Visas provide safe harbor for those who have faced violence, abuse, or other criminal activity. One stipulation of a U-visa is that the beneficiary is willing to work with law enforcement. U-Visas provide protection for the applicant and their immediate family members, including spouses and unmarried children under 21. In conclusion, U-Visas are a viable option for a very specific group of immigrants.
According to the USCIS, you may be eligible to receive a U-Visa if you:
- Are a victim of a crime within the US or in violation of US law;
- Have suffered substantial abuse as the result of the crime;
- Have valuable information for law enforcement;
- Are willing to work with law enforcement in legal proceedings; and
- Are admissible to the US.
4. Political Asylum
For immigrants who face violence, persecution, or even death upon forcible removal, political asylum is available. A person is eligible to seek asylum if they fear for their life or livelihood due to persecution because of their religion, race or ethnicity, social group, citizenship, or political beliefs. Asylees can apply or seek asylum either from within the country or at a point of entry, such as the southern US border.
In the US, two types of asylum exist – affirmative and defensive. Those facing deportation would be subjected to the defensive asylum process, as well as anyone who claims asylum at the border. Therefore, if defensive asylum is denied, removal proceedings continue.
Unfortunately, applications for asylum can take months or even years. During that time, the US government detains many potential asylees and their families. Additionally, asylum seekers must prove, via interviews with government officials, that they have “credible fear” upon return to their home country.
If an immigration judge approves defensive asylum during removal proceedings, deportation will not occur. At that point, the asylee is protected via their status and is eligible to apply for a green card. Furthermore, once designated political asylum will also protect immediate family members, like spouses and unmarried children under 21.
You may be eligible to seek asylum if you:
- Have not been in the US longer than 1 year;
- Fear persecution upon returning to your home country;
- Have not committed a serious crime;
- Have no other bars to asylum according to the USCIS; and,
- Are willing to participate in interviews to establish “credible fear.”
5. Voluntary Departure
Finally, despite legal representation, some removal proceedings are unlikely to end in a favorable outcome. At that point, an experienced immigration attorney may encourage you to pursue an option called “voluntary departure.” This means that you will voluntary leave the US and return to your country of origin. While voluntary departure can feel like a loss, it does not prevent you from returning to the US lawfully.
In some cases, there are serious consequences even for those leaving via voluntary departure. For example, these can include bans on travel to the US for years at a time or escalation of criminal charges should you return outside of agreed terms. In this case, a “hardship waiver” would need to be filed in your name to revoke any bans or limits on return. In conclusion, voluntary departure is a valid option for those who face certain deportation otherwise and wish to preserve their immigration record.
You may be eligible for voluntary departure if you have:
- The financial means to leave the US;
- Not committed an “aggravated felony;”
- Not committed any drug related offenses;
- No history of immigration violations; and/or
- The financial and physical ability to leave the US by the agreed-upon deadline.
Deportation is not Guaranteed
If you or a loved one face deportation proceedings, hope is not lost. In fact, there are several ways to stop deportation and reinstate your life with renewed stability and peace. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney is the best decision you can make. Legal counsel increases the chance of successful outcomes in removal proceedings. Immigration attorneys can protect your rights and open new pathways. No matter the final decision, a caring and skilled immigration attorney will work diligently to ensure you receive fair judgment and consideration.
The lawyers at Nanthaveth & Associates specialize in all facets of immigration law. Legal counsel is essential when you face the consequences of deportation – schedule a free initial consultation today.