The United States’ immigration laws are complex, to say the least. Because the issue of immigration has become so politicized, the laws and regulations concerning immigration and how immigration policies are implemented can change with little notice. As a result, individuals who are potentially impacted by immigration laws have more questions than answers.
If you or a loved one has questions about the immigration process, obtaining a visa, lawful permanent resident status, or citizenship, or is facing deportation, contact the Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. right away for experienced counsel and advocacy. We serve clients in the Los Angeles area as well as surrounding communities. You can reach our office at (213) 262-2000 or by contacting our office online.
Q: Where are the United States’ immigration laws found?
A: There are a number of laws, regulations, and administrative interpretations that collectively comprise the body of the U.S.’s immigration laws. The main statute governing immigration is the Immigration Nationality Act (INA). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ webpage provides links to the INA as well as to regulations and administrative rules relevant to immigration law.
Q: What is deportation? What are the consequences of deportation?
A: A person who is deported is one who has been removed (or removed him- or herself voluntarily) from a particular country (the United States, for purposes of this discussion). When a person is deported, that person physically leaves the United States and is returned to that person’s country of origin. The most immediate legal consequence that may follow from deportation is a prohibition against reentering the United States. Illegal reentry into the United States is a federal crime that can be punished by a term of imprisonment in a federal prison. As a practical matter, deportation can result in you being separated from your family if your family is not deported as well as does not voluntarily leave the country with you.
Q: What causes a person to be deported?
A: There are a number of facts that can lead to a person being deported. Technically speaking, any person who is discovered to be within the United States unlawfully (that is, without any legal authority) can be deported. As a practical matter, though, it is a near-impossible task for the United States to discover and deport every individual who is not lawfully present in the United States. The government instead tends to focus its deportation efforts on those individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States and who (1) commit serious and/or violent crimes while in the U.S. like homicide offenses, aggravated drug offenses, and/or gang-related crimes; or (2) have been previously involuntarily deported from the United States.
Q: How are deportation proceedings carried out against a person?
A: The deportation process begins when the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement files a petition to deport a person with the immigration courts and serves a Notice to Appear (NTA) on the person against whom the proceedings are initiated. The person is informed of the grounds upon which the government is seeking deportation and provides a date and time at which a hearing on the government’s petition will be heard. The person is required to appear at this hearing and may do so with an attorney. Failing to appear may result in a deportation order being entered against the person and his or her removal from the country being ordered by the court. The person has a limited right to appeal a deportation order if he or she files the appropriate notice within 30 days of the immigration judge’s deportation order.
Q: Can a person who travels to the United States to marry a citizen be forced to leave the United States?
A: Yes. A person who enters the United States for purposes of marrying a United States citizen has 90 days within which to marry the citizen who filed the petition. If the marriage does not take place within those 90 days, the person must leave the United States voluntarily or face potential deportation.
Q: What is DACA? What is DAPA?
A: Although similar, there are several important differences between DACA and DAPA. At the outset, it needs to be emphasized that, as of April 2016, DAPA is still enjoined by an order from a federal court and is not being implemented. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and is a program announced by the federal government in 2014 as a form of prosecutorial discretion. More specifically, the program allows certain eligible children who were brought by their parents into the United States and whose parents have obtained citizenship or lawful permanent residence status to be free from the threat of deportation. DACA also allows eligible individuals to apply for legal authorization to work in the United States.
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) was supposed to expand DACA-type benefits to an even greater class of persons present in the United States. Along with DAPA, DACA itself would have also been expanded. Lawsuits against the federal government were filed by several states and, in February of 2015, a federal district court enjoined (that is, prevented or prohibited) the federal government from implementing DAPA and the expansion of DACA. This injunction remains in place until the Supreme Court of the United States makes a ruling in the lawsuit.
Q: What is the difference between U.S. citizenship and Lawful Permanent Resident status?
A: Lawful permanent residence status (sometimes referred to as having a “green card”) entitles a person to live and work lawfully within the United States. However, a lawful permanent resident cannot vote in U.S. elections, cannot be absent from the United States for an extended period of time, and may not establish a residence outside the U.S.. In addition, a lawful permanent resident’s status may be taken away if the person commits certain criminal acts. Conversely, U.S. citizenship entitles a person to vote, to travel for extended periods of time away from the United States, and to establish residency in another country without giving up one’s status as a U.S. citizen. In fact, absent some expressed and unequivocal desire on the part of the citizen to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship, a U.S. citizen will remain so for his or her life.
Q: What Can I Do to Help Undocumented Immigrants?
A: Your time and attention to this great cause is deeply appreciated, and there is so much you can do. If you are willing and able, you can donate to charities, provide gifts for needy children, get involved politically and support us on social media. These are just a few of the many ways you can help undocumented immigrants in our communities. Read more here.
Q: What Can I Do to Expedite my Immigration Case?
A: If you or a loved one are experiencing delays during your immigration process, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process. Applying for premium processing, getting professional help with your immigration paperwork and requesting expedited processing with the help of an experienced immigration attorney are good places to start. Learn more.