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. 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 to-do list during his first week in office.
According to the USCIS website, this Executive Order 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.” 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 massive number of mailings of NTA letters have been wreaking havoc on immigrants and USCIS will be rifting the immigrant community even more. USCIS just reported that 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 Residence 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 engaging in criminal activity. They can also unearth who has immigrated to the United States 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 (which airs on WVIP 93.5FM on Thursdays at 10pm and Sundays at 11pm) Brian Figeroux, Esq. 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 definitely a plus. 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, Mr. Figeroux goes on to add.
If you seek the advice of a notary public to assist you with immigration forms, this might land you in hot water. They just cost a few dollars to be eyewitnesses to your signed statements but they do not replace the advice a lawyer could offer you.
Mr. 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 a qualified 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 your very life is at stake.