Options for Undocumented Immigrants
Subtitle: Understanding Relief Programs and Pathways
Undocumented immigrants face unique challenges when it comes to accessing legal protections and relief programs. However, there are some options available that can provide assistance and pathways to a more secure status. In this article, we will explore some of these options and explain them in an easy-to-understand manner.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
DACA is a program that provides temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for individuals who came to the United States as children. To qualify, applicants must meet specific criteria, including having arrived before the age of 16 and continuously residing in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. DACA allows recipients to obtain a social security number and work legally in the country. It is important to note that DACA does not provide a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.
It’s important to note that in 2021, a U.S. district court held that the DACA policy "is illegal." However, those who obtained DACA on or before July 16, 2021, are still protected and able to renew it.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
The Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in specific situations. TPS is a program that grants temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to individuals from countries experiencing armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions. This designation is made when conditions in the country temporarily prevent its nationals from safely returning or when the country is unable to adequately handle the return of its nationals.
A country may be designated for TPS due to various temporary conditions, including ongoing armed conflicts such as civil war, environmental disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes, or epidemics. Additionally, other extraordinary and temporary conditions can also warrant a TPS designation.
Eligibility for TPS is determined by the U.S. government, and it is granted on a country-by-country basis. Undocumented immigrants from countries designated for TPS can apply for protection and work legally during the designated period.
The TPS does not lead directly to permanent residency or citizenship. However, registering for TPS does not prevent individuals from applying for nonimmigrant status, seeking adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition, or pursuing any other immigration benefit or protection they may be eligible for.
The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to undocumented immigrants who have been victims of certain crimes - such as abduction, extortion, blackmail, sexual assault, etc. - and have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes.
The eligibility for a U visa is determined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is important to note that law enforcement does not have the authority to decide who is eligible for a U visa. However, law enforcement plays a crucial role by providing information to USCIS, which helps them assess whether the individual meets the following criteria:
Victim of a qualifying crime or criminal activity: The person must be a victim of a crime that falls under the specified categories for U visa eligibility.
Information about the crime or criminal activity: The individual should possess relevant and credible information about the crime or criminal activity they have experienced or witnessed.
Assistance in the detection or investigation of the crime: The person must demonstrate that they have been, are currently, or are likely to be helpful in the detection or investigation of the qualifying crime or criminal activity. This includes aiding in the prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the perpetrator.
The U visa provides temporary legal status, work authorization, and the possibility of applying for permanent residency after meeting specific requirements.
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), undocumented immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence, as well as their children, may be eligible to self-petition for lawful permanent residency (green card) without the abuser's knowledge or consent.
The VAWA self-petition process requires demonstrating a qualifying relationship and evidence of the abuse. This option is not limited to women and can be pursued by men as well. To be eligible for a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petition, you must meet the following criteria:
Spouse, intended spouse, or former spouse of an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Child of an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent.
Parent of an abusive U.S. citizen son or daughter who is 21 years old or older.
2. Experience of battery or extreme cruelty:
You have been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative during the qualifying relationship.
If applying as a spouse, your child has also been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse.
3. Residing or having resided with the abusive relative:
You are currently residing or have previously resided with your abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative.
4. Good moral character:
You are a person of good moral character
Under certain criteria, you can also apply for this from outside the U.S.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
[SIJS](https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-eligibility/green-card-based-on-special-immigrant-juvenile-classification#:~:text=The Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ,residence in the United States.) is available to undocumented immigrants under the age of 21 who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents. It requires obtaining a court order that determines it is not in the child's best interest to return to their home country. SIJS allows individuals to apply for lawful permanent residency (green card) and eventually pursue citizenship.
To determine if a juvenile qualifies for SIJ classification, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews and makes decisions on Form I-360, known as the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
Undocumented immigrants who have fled their home countries due to fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may be eligible for asylum. Asylum seekers must file an application within one year of arriving in the United States and demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution.
To file an application for asylum in the United States, you must meet the following requirements:
1. Physical presence in the United States: You can only submit the application if you are currently physically present in the United States.
2. Non-U.S. citizen status: Asylum applications are intended for individuals who are not U.S. citizens.
If you are eligible for asylum, you have the opportunity to remain in the United States. To apply affirmatively or defensively for asylum, you need to complete and file Form I-589 within one year of your arrival in the country. Successful asylum applicants can obtain lawful permanent residency (green card) and, after meeting certain requirements, apply for citizenship.
Remember, the immigration landscape is constantly evolving, and policies can change. Staying informed and seeking professional advice is essential for undocumented immigrants seeking relief and exploring potential pathways to legal status in the United States.
Having someone on your side is always a good idea when you’re facing legal procedures. Especially for those that can greatly affect your life. At our firm, we can provide personalized guidance and assistance to navigate these processes.