Things are changing very rapidly and there are a lot of conflicting rumors flying around. You may wish to check out InformedImmigrant.com for current information, resources, and recommendations for immigrants and their allies. Note that the site appears to have been created in partnership with FWD.us, a lobbying group led by Mark Zuckerberg and has been criticized for its approach and its support of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Know your rights regarding immigration proceedings. The National Immigration Law Center has a helpful overview, “Know Your Rights: Everyone has certain basic rights, no matter who is president” (PDF).
Be wary of using a “notario” or other non-lawyer “immigration service” for immigration advice.
In Latin American legal systems, a “notario” often has a great deal of training and can be licensed to practice some areas of law.
In the United States, a public notary does NOT have legal training and is NOT allowed to practice law, including giving any advice about immigration law or helping people prepare immigration applications.
Notarios are often well-meaning, but they can severely damage someone’s chances for successful status change. That said, there are forms of non-attorney who are permitted to represent people in some form of immigration hearing. You can look up whether people are accredited for this at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Recognition & Accreditation (R&A) Program page.
If you’re undocumented or at risk of losing your status, don’t panic. Make a plan.
- If you have children or other relatives who depend on you, make arrangements for their care.
- Save money for bond. (Often $3000-5000 for folks without criminal records, and well over $10,000 even for folks with just a single DUI. Really.)
- Keep all your documents in a safe place, and give copies to a trusted relative.
Familiarize yourself with the names and numbers of national and local legal protection groups, which will be working to provide advice, materials, and support over the coming months.
- The National Immigration Law Center
- The Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project
- Immigration Law Help
- United We Dream
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Local resources by city or state:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice – affiliates in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco
- International Irish Immigration Center – Boston (Despite the confusing name, this organization helps all immigrant populations.)
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project – Washington state
- The Student Immigrant Movement – Boston
- Atlas:DIY – NYC
The tips below this paragraph were written before the new administration began on January 20, 2017. Many things are changing fast. One key development was President Trump’s Executive Order on January 27, 2017, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” Muslim Advocates and the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has created a brief overview and analysis of this order which restricts Muslim entry to the United States.
On February 9, 2017, a federal appeals court declined to restore this order after the order had been temporarily restrained by a lower court. Three judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made that ruling. One possible next step would be for the President’s legal team to request all eleven judges of that court to weigh in with an “en banc” ruling. Alternately, they could appeal directly to the Supreme Court, however five votes in the Supreme Court would be needed to overturn the 9th Circuit decision and there’s currently a 4-4 deadlock between conservatives and liberals. (The President’s nominee to the vacant seat, Neil Gorsuch, is only at the start of a lengthy confirmation process.) The President’s legal team is fighting for a preliminary injunction in the Washington state court which placed the temporary restraining order, but that too would be subject to appeal to higher courts. The President’s best option may be to write a new executive order, but so far he is not showing signs of wanting to scale back to something less prone to legal challenges.
Generally, an application that you file is evaluated under law at time of filing, so if you need a visa extension, spouse visa, anything but DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), do it now.
That said, review this article, “Immigration Law and Policy After the Election: Six Key Points,” explaining realistic timeframes for immigration risks.
Be aware of risks inherent in filing under DACA if you are filing for the first time, because that does not provide any protection except stay of deportation and we are very likely to see further changes to existing DACA precedent.
If you or anyone you know is under 18 (or 21, in some states) and was born in another country, you may be able to apply for SIJS (Special Immigrant Juvenile Status), which allows you to become a legal resident.
Be aware that SIJS requires:
- A determination from a family court judge that it is not viable to reunite you with one or more of your parents
- A determination that it it is not in your interest to be sent back to your country of origin
- A finding of abandonment, neglect, or abuse
If you have a pending I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant), you should consider filing your I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) immediately, especially if you are from the Northern Triangle, or if you are from Mexico which may become backlogged again soon.