The “Ten Year Scare” Immigrants are Forced into

In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). The legislation had wide-ranging ramifications; it affected everything from border security to criminal racketeering regulations. It also included harsh provisions related to undocumented immigrants. Specifically, it dramatically restricted the rights of any person who has overstayed their visa or entered the country without adequate documentation. Colloquially, this is part of the law is sometimes referred to as the ‘ten year scare’.

What is the ‘Ten Year Scare’?

The ‘ten year scare’ is an aspect of IIRIRA that states that any person who has lived within the United States without proper documentation, for at least one year, will be barred from the country for ten years. This provision is found under Section 1182 (9)(b) of the law. The ten year ban will begin from the date that a person actually leaves the United States. It is an extremely draconian rule, which has led to many immigrants, especially immigrants in L.A., being trapped in an unfortunate state of limbo.

The Perverse Results Created By the Law

Many ‘undocumented’ immigrants currently within the United States could actually qualify to be legal residents, but are stopped solely by this law. Consider the hypothetical case of a man who entered the United States on a visa over ten years ago. Imagine that at some point, his visa expired but he did not renew it or leave the country. Subsequent to that, he married an American citizen and had children. Theoretically, he could now be eligible for permanent resident status. However, the ten year bar stands directly in his way. If he were to leave the United States, even to go to a consulate to obtain a valid visa, he would risk being barred from the country for ten years. This creates an extreme hardship for many immigrant families throughout Southern California and around the country.

What Legal Options are Available?

On the upside, if you find yourself trapped by the ten year scare, you do have legal options available. You may qualify for a waiver under United States law. There are two different types of waivers related to this issue: the traditional I-601 waiver and the provisional I-601A waiver. Ultimately, these are very delicate and complicated cases. Before moving forward with any waiver applications, you must seek professional legal help. To find out if a waiver is advisable in your case, please contact an experienced Los Angeles I-601A waiver immigration attorney today. At our firm, we know this is a very stressful process for immigrant families and we are here to help. We have a track record of success in I-601A visa overstay cases.

Political Change is Necessary

Ultimately, the law of the land can always change. Clearly, the 1996 IIRIRA was not well thought out. It has created unfair hardships for many hardworking immigrants and their families. The good news is that there may be political will to amend the statute. In fact, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has expressed interest in repealing the ten year bar on undocumented immigrants returning to the United States. As was reported by the Washington Post earlier this year, Clinton pledged to repeal ten year bar at a townhall event in Las Vegas, Nevada. She made the pledge after listening to the very tragic story of a local woman.

The Heartbreaking Story Told to Hillary Clinton

A legal immigrant told Clinton (and the audience) how her family has been adversely impacted by the ten year ban on immigrants returning to the United States. The woman is a legal immigrant who has two children who are both American citizens. Her husband, the father of the children, was an undocumented immigrant. He voluntarily returned to his native Mexico to fix his immigration status. Now, due to the law, he is barred from coming back into the United States for ten years. Without this bar, her husband could otherwise qualify for permanent legal status. Now he is stuck in limbo, away from his wife and two kids, all because he tried to do the right thing. This case provides an all too common example of what is wrong with the ten year bar. Families are being broken apart and things must change. Immigrants must take full advantage of their political rights. Without political engagement, immigrant interests will not be fairly considered and bad legislation like this will be allowed to remain in place.

We Offer Immigration Solutions in L.A.

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our compassionate immigration services team is fully committed to supporting immigrants, including those in the entertainment industry. If you are in need of legal assistance, our team is ready to help. Please call our Los Angeles office today to set up your initial consultation, even if you are considering moving to L.A. We proudly serve communities throughout Southern California, including Downey, Torrance, Alhambra and Monterey Park.

Josh Goldstein
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