Author Archives: ccttispblog

Carrying Documents in the 100 Mile Border Zone and Beyond

IM

A former client was recently riding on a bus through Rochester and was asked to produce his green card by Customs and Border Patrol.   This isn’t surprising since Rochester is located within the “Government’s 100 Mile Border Zone.” The Border Zone, which is an area that is up to 100 miles from any external U.S. border, is an area that the Supreme Court has deemed a “reasonable distance” in which it is lawful to engage in border security operations, including warrantless searches.  It allows for CBP to briefly detain travelers in order to ask them a brief question or two and possibly produce a document evidencing a right to be in the U.S.

Many immigrants, such as my former client, have legal status to be in the U.S. but fail to carry their documents.  In his case, he was a refugee who had adjusted his status to legal permanent resident (LPR) several years ago but didn’t carry his green card in his wallet.  Fortunately, he was only given a stiff warning about violating the law and was told he must carry his green card from that point on or be fined.  Over the years, there have been numerous accounts of incidences where immigrants traveling in cities north of Ithaca (Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester) were stopped resulting in various outcomes ranging from receiving a warning or feeling intimidated to being detained for further questioning or even arrested.  Given the era we are now living in where border security and anti-immigrant rhetoric seem to be part of the federal government’s discourse, it’s important more than ever for immigrants who travel through or anywhere near the border zone to be prepared to produce some ID regarding their admission into the U.S.

The law that the CBP agent was referring to when questioning my former client is very specific in stating every foreign national, age 18 or older, has to carry documentation of their immigration in the U.S.  This pertains to ALL foreign nationals, age 18 or older.  In other words, it doesn’t only pertain to those traveling in the 100 Mile Border Zone.

Since President Trump and his administration have serious intentions in shaking up the status quo when it comes to anything or anyone immigrant-related, it is advisable for foreign nationals who are in the U.S. to comply with the law in regards to carrying their documents.  There are many variables since foreign nationals enter the U.S. on all types of Visas as immigrants and non immigrants but the bottom line is they need to prove they have been inspected at the border and their length of stay hasn’t expired.  Here is some practical advice for those who are here as LPRs and those who are inspected and admitted but do not have LPR status.

  • LPRs need to carry their actual green card. For those who have entered the country with an I-551 stamp on their passport and are waiting for their green cards to be produced, they need to carry their passport.  For those who have expired green cards, Form I-90 needs to be filed with USCIS to get the card renewed, and once a receipt for filing is obtained, the local USCIS office can provide a sticker onto the expired card that shows the green card is valid for an additional year.  For lost green cards, form I-90 can also be filed to replace the green card and once a receipt is received, a temporary ID can be made again at the local USCIS office.
  • Foreign nationals inspected and admitted into the U.S. who do not have legal permanent residency also need to carry documentation regarding their immigration status. Immigrants enter the U.S. for a myriad of reasons including tourism, work, study, research, or seeking asylum.  They also may enter as refugees or have been granted temporary protected status.  Whatever the case may be, the documents made available upon arrival or after they have applied for some type of immigration benefit need to be carried since this is required by law.  Examples of this would be carrying a copy of a valid, unexpired I-94 admission record, Form I-551, a valid, unexpired employment authorization document (work permit), or a foreign passport showing a valid CBP admission stamp.

One more thought about the 100 Mile Border Zone.  Since becoming naturalized as a U.S. citizen doesn’t provide immunity from being checked by CBP and being questioned about U.S. citizenry, it is advised that naturalized citizens also carry some form of proof of becoming U.S. citizens.  The most convenient proof would be a U.S. passport card.

Given the high cost to replace a stolen or lost green card, foreign passport, or work permit, it is understandable why people carry a photo copy in their wallet and keep their original safely stored at home.  But it is the law, and not having the proper documentation available at all times can result in a misdemeanor with real consequences.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep

 

Advertisements

Ithacan Immigrant: Pakala

~8958845

We interviewed Pakala, a Thai national, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant.   Pakala moved to the U.S. with his mother in the 70’s when he was a teenager.  He expressed that he’s been here so long that he feels like he is already a U.S. citizen but finally decided to take the steps to formally become one.

IMG7

ISP: Why did you come to US?

My mother had a job with the government with USAID right out of university and the last place she worked was in Laos.  When Laos fell to communism she was placed in the U.S. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My life has taken many twists and turns.  My relatives live here and I needed a haven.  Ithaca became a haven for me.  I ran away from reality and found a haven in Ithaca – as cliché as that sounds.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

The truth?  I was born in a large city and had lived in large cities so I thought it was quaint and at the same time I felt so far removed from everything else I had known.  That drive from Whitney Point to Ithaca, I felt like I was traveling back in time in a time I didn’t know because of the farm land, the farm houses and the old tractors.  But I grew to love it.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

My mother makes a mean meatloaf.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Buffalo Bookstore.  There’s a sense of community; a sense of everyone knowing everyone else.  I like the interaction of people there.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I find that Ithacans, as a community, care more about what makes the world whole – they look beyond the front door more.  I find that to be admirable and rare.

 

#With Refugees

2017WithRefugees

On World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20th, the perseverance of millions of refugees is celebrated.  UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has a digital toolkit  available online where the pubic can show their support for families forced to flee.   We recently received the following correspondence and were asked to share it.  Please consider taking a moment to sign UNHCR’s petition to show solidarity and empathy for people forced to flee.

With World Refugee Day approaching, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, would like to share our #WithRefugees digital toolkit, which contains stories and content that we hope you will consider sharing with your networks.

With more people fleeing war and persecution than ever before, we are asking supporters to stand #WithRefugees and help create concrete solutions for the global refugee crisis. This year, we continue the #WithRefugees campaign and petition as a way for the public to show their solidarity with and empathy for people forced to flee. The petition calls on governments to make sure all refugee children get an education, all refugee families have somewhere safe to live, and every refugee can work or learn new skills to support their families.

In the toolkit you will find the story of Ekhlas, a resettled refugee originally from Sudan. Despite missing two years of school while living in exile, Ekhlas is a grad student who gives back to her new community in Portland, Maine, as a volunteer English teacher. At the end of the toolkit, you will find additional stories about refugees around the world, ways to share them on social media, and ways to engage with UNHCR.

Download the toolkit here.

The World Refugee Day website is www.withrefugees.org.

Hashtag: #WithRefugees

The toolkit contains:

  • Social media macros and video featuring Ekhlas, a resettled refugee originally from Sudan
  • Information about the Twitter hashtag emoji for World Refugee Day
  • Links to stories featuring refugees from various global refugee situations
  • Information on the #WithRefugees petition

Many thanks in advance for your help in amplifying World Refugee Day and the #WithRefugees campaign. If your agency has created materials for World Refugee Day, we would like to learn more about your outreach and how we might be able to promote your work.

Ithacan Immigrant: Voda

~8958845

We interviewed Voda, a Nigerian national, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant who moved to upstate New York after he married.  Voda originally came to ISP to access our legal immigration services and has returned to get assistance in applying to become a U.S. citizen.

IMG_0034

ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came to New York City for vacation and that’s when I first met my wife.  I went home, and after that I visited the U.S. again for her birthday, went home, and then came back a third time and got married. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

We moved to Ithaca because my wife is from around this area and she wanted to be close to her family.  She thought this would be a good place to raise a child.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I looked at it like it was too quiet and boring for me.  I was sad for a couple of months and then I started acknowledging the beauty little by little and finally realized wow, this place is really beautiful.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Double quarter pounder with cheese and a vanilla milkshake.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Dick’s Sporting Goods – they have clothes that last long.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

Ithaca is kind of a tourist destination.  It has so many beautiful places that my hometown doesn’t have.  My hometown was about the same size as New York City but it’s not a tourist location.

Risks and Rights in the Age of Aggressive Immigration Enforcement

ice-raids

Five days after taking office, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”  This move signaled a dramatic shift in executive priorities by greatly expanding the number of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation.

This post will describe important features of the Executive Order, and link to legal resources that will help immigrants understand certain rights that apply when they are approached by federal agents or processed for deportation.

The Immigration Enforcement Framework

President Trump campaigned on a promise to deport up to 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States.  In line with that pledge, the Executive Order calls for hiring an additional 10,000 immigration agents, potentially doubling the federal government’s enforcement capacity at a cost of nearly 15 billion over the next 10 years.

The Executive Order also enlists cooperation from state and local agencies under “287g agreements,” referring to the statutory provision that authorizes state and local officers to perform the functions of immigration agents.  At the same time, the Executive Order threatens to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary jurisdictions” that prohibit state or local cooperation with immigration agents to the extent permitted by law.  That provision was recently put on hold by a federal court citing constitutional concerns.

Redirecting Enforcement Priorities

The Executive Order also resurrects the “Secure Communities Program,” which lays the groundwork for deporting significantly more immigrants compared prior years.  Whereas the Obama Administration focused immigration resources on removing gang members, drug traffickers, and other violent criminals, the new Administration is targeting any removable immigrant deemed a “risk” to public safety.

The last three months have already seen a dramatic uptick in enforcement actions taken against removable but otherwise law abiding immigrants.  Compared to the same period last year, the number of immigrants arrested by federal agents between January and March increased by a third.  Immigrants with no criminal record are being deported at twice the rate they were before the Executive Order went into effect, and in some jurisdictions, the rate is seven times higher.

Moreover, individuals who’ve had minor brushes with the law, but who might have been permitted to remain in the country previously, will more likely be deported now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed federal prosecutors to initiate more federal prosecutions, and charge defendants with the highest eligible crime.  Immigrants who might have been released from custody as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion will now be charged with a crime and subject to removal under statutory provisions that align with the enforcement priorities set by the new Executive Order.

Finally, federal agents are making arrests in situations that are especially traumatizing, in and around “sensitive locations” that were previously considered out-of-bounds.  A victim of domestic violence was arrested in court after seeking a protective order against an abuser.  A father of four was arrested after dropping one daughter off at school, while another in the back seat watched as federal agents pulled him from the car.  Just this week agents entered an elementary school seeking to interrogate a nine-year old child.  In February, a critically ill mother of two was transferred to a detention facility after federal agents removed her in hand-cuffs from the hospital where she was receiving treatment for brain cancer.

A groundswell of criticism from Judges, victim advocates, and children’s rights defenders prompted Congressional Democrats to introduce a measure that would ban “sensitive location” arrests.  That bill is unlikely to pass, but federal agents who made these arrests were already violating an internal operating policy.  That policy was either not being enforced, or was not communicated through the rank and file, and the President’s Executive Order is a signal that federal agents will not be pressured to abide by it going forward.

Dreamers Left in Limbo

Despite its boundless reach, the Executive Order nonetheless leaves some immigrants in a state of limbo, wondering whether legal policies that protected them from deportation under the Obama Administration still apply.

This is the case with “Dreamers,” who are shielded from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  That program authorizes immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to live in the open without fear of being deported back to a country many have no memory of.  Upon registering with the government, Dreamers who meet certain requirements are authorized to work, attend college, obtain a driver’s license, and otherwise pursue their goals as fully integrated community members.  Because they come here at such a young age, Dreamers grow up alongside American peers, and in many cases have American siblings.

President Trump has so far wavered on promises he made during the campaign to dismantle DACA once he took office, and has aside a draft Executive Order that reportedly repeals the program.  Still, the Executive Order he did sign declares that the United States will not continue to “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”  How this applies to Dreamers is unclear.  Meanwhile, ICE has publicly reaffirmed its authority to arrest any removable immigrant, including Dreamers, and under questionable circumstances has in fact detained a handful of Dreamers who are now facing deportation.

Know Your Rights

Every person in the United States is entitled to basic rights under the Constitution, even if they are in the country without authorization.  Immigrants who are approached by immigration agents or involved in removal proceedings should seek the assistance of a qualified attorney.  In the meantime, immigrants can learn about their rights and take steps to protect themselves through online resources published by the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and other advocacy groups.

These resources explain what to do when ICE agents come to your door, how to distinguish a *judicial warrant* from an *immigration warrant,* and why the difference between the two is so important.  They also provide guidance on how to prepare an “emergency planning checklist” to ensure that family members are provided for when a parent or caretaker is deported.  Additional information is also covered.

Moreover, earlier this year, New York became the first state in the country to provide free legal representation to immigrants who are detained pending removal.  Though immigrants facing deportation do not have a federal constitutional right to an attorney, the Liberty Defense Project will nonetheless provide low-income immigrants with the help of an attorney through a state-funded partnership with private organizations.  The initiative is a state-wide expansion of a similar program already operating in New York City, and three upstate immigration courts.

The program is likely to have a discernible impact on the lives of immigrants, and strengthen broader community foundations.  More than 4400 immigrant were deported following removal proceedings last year in New York alone, but studies have shown that the help of an attorney dramatically increases the likelihood that an immigrant will be allowed to remain in the United States.  In one example, only 3% of unrepresented immigrants avoided deportation, but the help of an attorney increased that likelihood by as much as 1000%.

The program is also expected to yield important social and economic benefits.  “No family should face a legal proceeding without an attorney,” lawmakers said, “and no family should be ripped apart because they couldn’t afford counsel.”  Keeping immigrant families together also reflects sound economic policy, law-makers argue, given the opportunity for “increased tax revenues and less need for families left behind to draw on the social safety net.”  Employers will also avoid the avoiding the loss of productivity that results when their employees are detained and deported, and the consequent need to identify and train replacement workers.

The legislature has allocated $10 million to the program which, in addition to legal defense, funds case management, job training, and English language classes.  The program goes into effect this Fall.

-Kathleen Bergin

Ithacan Immigrant: Gaw

~8958845

Gaw came to the U.S. almost 15 years ago as a refugee from Burma and was resettled in Ithaca with her family.  Since then, several extended family members, including her sister, husband, and 5 boys, have also moved to Ithaca through the U.S. Refugees Admissions Program.   Over the years, Gaw and her family members have accessed various services we offer at Catholic Charities including our citizenship & naturalization services.

3_n

ISP: Why did you come to U.S.?

I was living in a camp in Thailand for two years and then came to the U.S. as a refugee.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband had a friend living in Ithaca and so we came here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I thought Ithaca was quiet – I liked it.  But at first I was scared to come here because I didn’t know English.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

I like salad – I really like vegetables with dressing.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

I don’t really do much of the shopping because my husband takes care of that.  He usually goes to Wal-Mart and Wegmans.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

In Burma, I lived in a village and we had to hide and were always scared. It seemed like over there we had to try to make everything safe all the time.    When we came here we were free.

Call to Action: TPS for Haitians about to Expire

pic2The Department of Homeland Security’s current 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protective Status (TPS) is about to expire on July 27, 2017. Haiti was devastated by an earthquake on January 12, 2010 and within days Haitians who were in the U.S. were able to apply for TPS.  Haitian TPS has continued to be renewed for 18-month increments since the initial designation period because the country has suffered from the after effects of the earthquake and was then devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  To date, approximately 58,000 Haitians are currently residing in the U.S. with TPS which has granted them the status to live and work here without fear of deportation.

Haiti is our neighbor and it’s hard to witness how Haitians never seem to get a break. Not only do they have a new government in place that is struggling with the aftermath of such destructive natural catastrophes as those mentioned above, they are also dealing with severe outbreaks of cholera and wide-spread food insecurity.  For the Trump administration to expect Haiti to assimilate 58,000 potential deportees back into their country seems pretty inhumane. Rather, keeping them here is a humanitarian gesture DHS Secretary Kelly and President Trump should make.

Immigration advocacy groups across the country are releasing action alerts to pressure the Trump administration to extend TPS for Haitians.   The following one was adapted from one posted by Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami (Haitian Women of Miami), an organization I knew well from when I lived in South Florida and worked with Haitian refugees. According to their website, U.S. Senators Rubio and Nelson of Florida, Markey of Massachusetts, and Schumer and Gillibrand of NY have already signed letters to Secretary Kelly for extending TPS for Haitians.  However, even though Senators Gillibrand and Schumer have already signed on, we need to keep the pressure on for them to continue advocating for this.

To help the efforts in getting TPS for Haitians extended another 18 months, please take the following steps:  

Step 1: Call Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, 202-224-4451, Senator Charles Schumer, 202-224-6542, and Representative Tom Reed, 202-225-3161.

Step 2: Whether you get a recording or a person, say that you are a constituent and that you live in the Congressperson’s state or district.  Then say:

I’m calling about the need to extend TPS for Haiti, which expires July 22.  Please let the Senator [Representative] know that TPS is at grave risk of NOT being extended, and that we need him [her] to please call DHS Secretary Kelly today to URGE HIM TO EXTEND IT, because not extending it would be a travesty and disaster for families here and in Haiti and bad for U.S. national security.  Thank you.

*Please note….you can use your own words if you like but keep it brief. You don’t need to discuss the issue; the receptionist is trained just to take your message without asking for any details.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep

Senator Gillibrand Sheds Much-Needed Light on Children of Deportees

31-gillibrand

Gillibrand speaking at a rally in New York City

It’s a well-known fact that children of deportees suffer from trauma, economic and social instability, as well as other harmful effects that are devastating and long-lasting.  With the deportation net widening  under the Trump administration, it’s highly likely even more children will be emotionally scarred due to the deportation of their parent(s). Therefore, I was pleased to see a letter had been spearheaded by N.Y. State Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, and was directed to DHS Secretary, John Kelly, and DHHS Secretary, Tom Price addressing this topic.  Gillibrand, along with 15 of her Senate-colleagues have asked them for concrete data on what in fact does happen to those children who are left behind. Also, what policies are in place both before and after they are separated from their parents only to become part of the foster care system?

Families being split up due to deportation is nothing new – even in rural parts of the country such as upstate New York. For many years now, I have seen Cornell Farmworker Program’s Director, Mary Jo Dudley, make a concerted effort to get parents to sign a  Parental Consent for Alternative Childcare Form so they can have a plan in place for their children in case they are deported.  Having this type of document prepared could potentially keep children out of the welfare system and into the hands of someone the family knows and trusts.  But then what? The Senators’ letter inquires about what types of trauma-informed services are in place to assist those children who are placed with kin families.  It makes you wonder, do they even exist?  If not, then the guardians named in the Parental Consent forms like the one above might not have the trauma-informed services they will also need to assist the children left in their care.

The following letter asks many critical questions and they deserved to be answered.  It’s important to know whether or not the system can adequately handle children of deportees and whether or not the “continuity of care” for children being separated from their parent(s) is in place or even considered.  From what I know about Senator Gillibrand, she seems to carefully choose the issues she gets behind and stays on top of them.  Therefore, I’m cautiously hopeful the children of deportees will finally get some of the attention they deserve and the services they will need to address their trauma and emotional pain.  In the meantime, the letter is quite powerful and immigration advocates should follow what happens to make sure it isn’t dismissed or brushed aside.

Dear Secretary Kelly and Secretary Price:

We write regarding the recent uptick in immigration enforcement actions across the country pursuant to President Trump’s policy directives.  We are particularly concerned about the impact of such policies on vulnerable people, including the children of deported parents.  More than 5,100 children enter the child welfare system each year because of the deportation or detention of their parents. These children are United States citizens, and the deportation of their parents leaves them vulnerable in myriad ways.

As you know, separation from a parent can cause significant negative mental health effects in children. Studies have shown that children who experience these types of traumatic events can suffer from symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, have poorer behavioral and educational outcomes, and experience higher rates of poverty and food insecurity. Abruptly separating from parents is a highly destabilizing, traumatic experience for children, and one that carries long term consequences such as feelings of loss and grief, economic hardship, and increased risk of neglect and abuse. Additionally, as parents and children are separated, more youth are entering into the child welfare system – a system that is already straining to meet the needs of the many children it serves.

We therefore seek answers to the following questions, and would be grateful for your response within 30 days:

  1. How many children have entered the child welfare system and been removed from their parents’ care as a result of their parents being deported since January 2015?
  2. Of these children, please provide data on the type of placements, i.e. foster families, kinship care, or congregate care placement. For those children placed with kin families, what types of trauma-informed supportive services are in place to ensure that these placements are stable and children can thrive?
  3. What is the estimated financial cost to taxpayers to support U.S. citizen children of deported parents while they are in foster care? Please provide all available data since January 2015, to include an aggregate number and the average cost per child per day, and the average length of stay in foster care.
  4. What procedures are in place to screen individuals who are in the process of deportation to identify whether they are parents?
  5. What is your policy when making an arrest of a parent in terms of ensuring continuity of care for minor children?
  6. What is Department of Homeland Security’s policy regarding contacting local child welfare agencies and what is your protocol when the agency detains an individual and children are in the home without a caretaker?
  7. What policies are in place to protect the children’s interests in these proceedings?
  8. What are your agencies doing to ensure that parents in deportation proceedings can meaningfully participate in resultant child welfare cases, and visit with their children?
  9. Is there a plan to increase federal funding through DHS to support local departments of social services across the country as they experience an increase in their foster care responsibility as a result of new DHS policy?

If the data requested in this letter are not available, we would like to request that your agencies start maintaining them. This information is critical for identifying children in need of support and illuminating potential unintended consequences of immigration policies.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep

 

 

 

Event: Film Showing, Discussion for “After Spring” to Help Raise Awareness of the Plight of Syrian Refugees

_Za'atri_Refugee_Camp

Zaatari Refugee Camp

Please join Catholic Charities and the Peace Pins Project on Tuesday, April 25 at 6:45 pm at Cinemapolis for a screening of  “After Spring.” This documentary film follows two Syrian families as they navigate their lives in Zaatari refugee camp.  Zaatari has been described as a three-square-mile piece of land located in the desolate Jordanian desert that has become a semi-permanent home for approximately 80,000 refugees, the majority originating from the Da’ara Governorate in Syria’s Southwest.

Ithaca’s Mayor, Svante Myrick, will be introducing the film  and Cornell Professor Chris Barrett and Catholic Charities’ Deputy Director, Laurie Konwinski, will be hosting a Q&A sessions to round out the event.  Tickets can still be pre-ordered online or will be available at Cinemapolis the night of the showing.

ISP would like to thank Kristy Colbert from Peace Pins 14850 for organizing this event and also thank fellow members Elizabeth Ryan and Melissa Dhundale for their ongoing efforts to support the work Catholic Charities does for immigrants and refugees in our community.  Peace Pins 14850 describes themselves as  “a private group of Ithacans who want to embrace the refugee families arriving in Ithaca this coming year.  We have been raising funds by selling red, white, and blue-beaded safety pins as a communal rejection of bigotry and discrimination.”   And “raising funds” is not an exaggeration.  So far, Catholic Charities has received almost $8,400 from the group which we think is pretty amazing!

Hope to see everyone at the film.

Fear-Based Immigration

19

I recently met with a woman who accompanied her mother to my office to discuss the process of naturalization.  The mother, a longtime, elderly resident, immigrated to the U.S. over 40 years ago from Honduras and has never taken the steps to become a U.S. citizen for personal reasons.  Her plan early on was to raise her family in New York so her children could get a good education.   She had envisioned someday returning to her home country to retire and didn’t see how becoming a U.S. citizen was necessary.  Being a legal permanent resident suited her needs – it allowed her to work in the U.S. and her Honduran passport, along with her green card, was sufficient when she wanted to travel abroad.   Four decades later, she is taking the steps to naturalize.  When I asked why it was important for the mother to become naturalized now, I knew the answer.  The decision was being motivated by fear.

Since the 2016 presidential election, many immigrants seeking legal services across the country seem to have fear being the driving force as to why they are seeking out immigration benefits.  I think of it as fear-based (as opposed to family or employment-based) immigration.  Prior to the election, a sense of fear seemed to engulf immigrant communities across the country, including those in upstate New York.   Once the President’s Executive Orders were issued and it was revealed how the deportation net was widening, reality set in.  Those orders not only had a chilling effect on immigrants who are in the country undocumented, it has also placed fear into the hearts of many who have legal residence.

Both pre- and post-election, I have seen an uptick in clients who are applying for immigration benefits out of fear similar to the Honduran national above.  After spending many years of being unworried about their immigration statuses or documents, some clients are making appointments trying to naturalize as quickly as possible while others are seeking assistance to obtain citizenship certificates or replace green cards they misplaced years ago.  U.S. citizen spouses are stopping in to inquire about the fees associated for getting their undocumented spouses “papers” even though they could have completed applications to legalize them prior to the new administration.

What used to be routine appointments now have a sense of urgency like I have never seen before.  And the concerns I am addressing upon completing applications that have no red-flags makes it clear that a profound sense of fear has already settled in.  Even when I meet someone who has had no arrests, is gainfully employed, and pays their taxes, I know they leave my office with lingering questions as to whether or not their applications might be denied and they could be deported.

But to a certain degree, fear-based immigration has been around a long time (e.g., when immigrants used to wait for appointments with INS before it was abolished back in 2003).  I witnessed first-hand how Miami’s INS office had a take-no-prisoners approach when it came to serving the long line of Haitians and Cubans waiting to apply for immigration benefits back in the 90’s.   They, too, feared their applications might be denied and they could be deported.

Fear in the immigrant community can either be stoked or diminished by many factors such as changes in immigration law, changes in elected officials, and/or changes in the public discourse surrounding immigrants and national security.  Even though the deportation net is widening, it’s important to point out that for those who are seeking green cards or applying for naturalization, laws are in place that govern these processes.  With that said, it’s more important than ever for anyone seeking an immigration benefit to have their cases properly screened and vetted and to make sure the person assisting them is authorized to give legal advice.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep