By Dana Mathura
In recent immigration news that may have occurred directly under our noses, the United States’ Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began implementing their New Policy Memorandum on Notices to Appear this past Oct. 1. The move is a direct effect of Executive Order 13768 which Trump signed just five days into being inaugurated as president. Immigration was clearly at the top of his and his cabinet’s list to have dealt with this matter during his first week in office. According to the USCIS website, this specific Executive Order backed by Trump proposed “immigration policies for enhancing public safety, and it articulated the priorities for the removal of aliens from the United States.”
USCIS now has the responsibility of abiding by the order’s ruling. Their website defines a Notice to Appear (NTA) as “a document that instructs an individual to appear before an immigration judge.” Since Oct. 1 the USCIS reported that it “may issue NTAs on denied status-impacting applications, including but not limited to, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.”
The profuse mailings of NTA letters have been wreaking havoc on immigrants and USCIS intends on rifting the immigrant community more. USCIS just reported that on Nov. 19, it would be expanding its NTA issuance to those who have been denied on the following applications and petitions:
Applications for T Nonimmigrant Status, Petitions for U Nonimmigrant Status, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant, Special Immigrant (Violence Against Women Act self-petitions and Special Immigrant Juvenile petitions), Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition (when the beneficiary is present in the US) and finally the Application to Register PermanentResidence or Adjustment of Status.
An NTA is the first step taken by the American government to begin removal of an immigrant from the country. Once a deportation hearing begins, you will need representation. There are three main ways to avoid being deported: seeking political asylum, adjustment of status or cancellation of removal. NTA letters are typically mailed to those who have been denied status in the United States, usually due to a red alert like previous criminal activity. They can also unearth who has emigrated to the U.S. and overstayed their welcome, thus deeming them illegal. USCIS will uncover this information during the investigation it enacts when you submit an application.
As part of the Ask The Lawyer radio program, attorney Brian Figeroux offered several pieces of advice. First, he suggests that you invest in a top-notch attorney who specializes in immigration. Finding a lawyer who is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association is a plus that will greatly benefit you. Do not be afraid to question any lawyer you meet during the initial consultation about their qualifications and previous successes in cases similar to yours, he goes on to add.
Finding a notary public to assist you with immigration forms might land you in hot water. They cost a few dollars to be an eyewitness to your signed statements but they do not replace the assistance a lawyer could offer you. Figeroux also suggests that in these unscrupulous times, those wishing to send frivolous applications to USCIS avoid doing so. Ultimately, USCIS will only know your address and send the Notice to Appear letter if you send in unnecessary applications.
It is something to think long and hard about as the immigration policies in the United States become more stringent. Try utilizing these tips and equipping yourself with the correct lawyer to avoid further complications. Fear may take over during times like these but it is imperative to be mindful and driven with regards to your case because it is your life at stake.