By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Devin M. Connolly

The year 2011 is nearly over and it is time to make New Year’s resolutions. Will 2012 be the year to stop avoiding immigration concerns? Will 2012 be the year you consult an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney about your immigration rights in the U.S?

The plight of immigrants in the U.S. is not hopeless. Legalizing one’s status or becoming a U.S. citizen is a distinct possibility for many people. However, this possibility will only become a reality if one confronts the problem and seeks help from an immigration attorney.

Unfortunately, many people are unwilling to seek help. They are fearful of discussing their case with an attorney. Perhaps it is because they entered the U.S. without proper documents. Maybe it is because they entered the U.S. many years ago and their visa has long expired. Or possibly it is because the relative who filed a petition for them has died. Regardless of the individual circumstances, many non-citizens simply ignore their immigration problem because they are scared of what they may hear from an immigration attorney. Others ignore their immigration problem because they are concerned that taking action may make their situation worse.
 
 These are valid concerns, but by ignoring the problem, the non-citizen is eliminating the possibility of obtaining lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. These concerns are also why someone with a serious immigration problem should consult a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer. A good immigration lawyer will be able to tell the non-citizen what help may be available since relief is available for many immigration problems. In fact, thanks to certain changes, more help might be available than has been in many years.

 A major policy shift occurred in 2011. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made several announcements regarding its intent to eliminate low priority cases from Immigration Court so that they can focus on its highest immigration enforcement priorities. These priorities include national security, public safety, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system. There is no guarantee that an alien will be able to have his court case closed, but the possibility does exist that the DHS may be willing to dismiss deportation proceedings against some alien. There is also the possibility that these aliens may be able to acquire work authorization and be legally employed in the U.S.

 There are also many other immigration problem where relief may be available. A good example would be the relief available to non-citizens who entered the U.S. with a false name in their passport. These non-citizens may be eligible for a waiver of that misrepresentation if they have a qualifying relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The non-citizen must show that their parent and/or spouse will suffer “extreme hardship” if the non-citizen is forced to return to their home country. To meet that standard, it is not enough for the non-citizen to show that the spouse or parent loves the non-citizen and would miss them if they were deported. Rather, the non-citizen must present clear and convincing evidence to the immigration court that an alien is eligible and deserving of a waiver.

 Another common problem occurs when some people obtain their green card by lying about their marital status. If the alien has a parent, spouse, son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and can present evidence that they have more favorable than unfavorable facts in their case, they may be able to obtain a waiver and keep their green card. Upon receipt of the waiver, the non-citizen may be able to naturalize.

 Any possibilities for relief still exist for non-citizens. There were certainly disappointments in 2011, but it is important to focus on the positives and see that there is hope. There were many changes in 2011 and these changes may now afford non-citizens an avenue for relief that will help resolve their immigration problems in 2012.

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