President Trump’s election has unfortunately ushered in a new sense of fear and dread among many immigrants and their families. The President launched his campaign with decidedly anti-immigrant statements, and he appointed many immigration opponents to key positions, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The administration announced new “enforcement priorities” to guide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the use of their resources. ICE is instructed to consider the following categories as enforcement priorities:
- individuals who have a conviction for any criminal offense, no matter how minor or how long ago,
- those who are charged with a crime, or who have committed acts amounting to a crime (even where no charges are ever filed),
- anyone who has abused public benefits or committed fraud in connection with any official matter before a government agency,
- any person under a final order of removal (no matter when the order was issued),
- any individual who “in the judgment of an immigration officer” poses a risk to public safety.
Under the new guidance, many more individuals will be considered enforcement priorities. For example, if you are living in the United States without legal status and were ordered removed 20 years ago, you are now an enforcement priority. This is the case even if you have no record of criminal convictions, and even if you have U.S. citizen children.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to prepare yourself and your family if you do encounter immigration officials. Here are some practical steps you can take now:
- Inform yourself of your rights if you are detained or confronted by ICE
- Make a family plan to include who will care for your children if you are detained
- Consider preparing an application for a stay of removal in case you are detained by immigration authorities. A stay of removal is a request for ICE to hold off on your deportation for a specific period of time. ICE can grant a stay of removal for up to one year, and the stay can be renewed if you file a new application. When you apply for a stay of removal, you must include evidence showing the humanitarian reasons why ICE should allow you to stay in the United States. You should document any medical problems you or your children have, the need for you to financially support your family, the length or your residence and significant family ties to the United States, community support or volunteer activities, and any other compelling or humanitarian factor that would help show why ICE should allow you to remain in the United States. As part of your family plan, you may want to consider gathering documents for a stay of removal application now, so that you are prepared to file a strong request if you are detained.
And perhaps most importantly, consult with an immigration attorney or legal aid provider NOW to determine whether you have any options for gaining legal status. If you’re interested in speaking with an attorney about your legal status and options that may be available to you, schedule your case evaluation appointment today.