A mew major trend is submerging immigration law firms nationwide: undocumented spouses of US citizens now rush desperately to secure green cards. The new political climate and the energetic deportation actions conducted by the new administration have created alarm among the undocumented.
It is not clear whether the new administration will still uphold the “Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers” which had been enacted by the Obama administration. The purpose of these waivers was is to pardon undocumented immigrants who are married to a US citizen so that they can apply for a green card.
Normally, an undocumented alien would need to return to his homeland and apply for recognition. Yet, once outside of the US, she would be banned from re-entry because of her unlawful presence in the country.
The waiver allows the illegal immigrant to be pardoned while inside the USA and then properly file for a green card. Yet, many undocumented aliens didn’t take advantage of it. They didn’t see the urgency of it and preferred avoiding the legal fees associated with this process. Some feared they would be denied the waiver, as it happened 25% of the times. And some simply never had the money.
ICE Raids Have Changed the Situation
After ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has started its sweeping raids, the undocumented spouses have started panicking. They now risk deportation and they regret not having started the procedure before. It is a tough call because some of them won’t obtain the waiver and will be deported anyway.
Yet the urgency of the matter is such that immigration firms are registering a record number of applicants for this process. Before, out of 10 people walking in the door and asking information, only 3 would proceed. Now it is more like 9 out of 10. All of them are gambling with the future. Applying for the waiver and the green card is a lengthy, expensive process. It costs a few thousand dollars and takes up to two years.
First, the couple files a visa petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services on the grounds of their marriage. Once that is approved, the couple applies for the waiver. This requires the citizen to prove that he or she would suffer extreme hardship without his or her spouse in the country. Such hardship must be specific and concrete. It can be financial instability, inability to support US citizen children, or medical issues that require the partner’s care.
With the current political situation and the daily changes in the immigration field, nobody can predict what will actually happen in two years. Much less establish whether the “Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers” will be upheld or swept aside. A challenge and an opportunity for many legal firms.