Notarios May Try to Take Advantage of Executive Action: Advice From a Kansas City Immigration Attorney

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

Scammers have preyed on the immigrant community for decades. Undocumented immigrants live everyday in fear of being deported and separated from their family. They are particularly vulnerable to scammers because of their desire for status and protection. Undocumented immigrants with poor English comprehension and lack of formal education are particularly vulnerable. Attorneys, real and pretend, (often called “notarios”) play on these fears and promise legal status to undocumented immigrants. They file bogus applications or simply do nothing; they know the victims will not go after them out of fear of deportation. Instead of legal status, these victims are usually placed in deportation proceedings, leaving their lives and families in jeopardy.

Juan and Cindy were two of these victims. They have two children, both born in the U.S. They both work to provide for their children, but they keep a low profile. Something as simple as a broken taillight could lead to an arrest and potential deportation. Like any good parents, they desire stability and protection for their children. So they sought legal help. They went to an attorney who spoke Spanish to them and made them comfortable. He promised them legal status – a work permit, a social security card and a driver’s license. This is what Juan and Cindy needed so they paid the attorney. They were protected –  at least they thought.

Little did they know, but their attorney filed bogus applications in their names. When the government discovered the bogus applications and their unlawful status, Juan and Cindy were put in deportation proceedings. Due to the attorney’s scam they ended up in the one place they were trying to avoid. They are one step from deportation and the destruction of their stable and loving family.

President Obama’s executive action will provide protection from deportation for thousands of parents of U.S. citizens like Juan and Cindy. However, the announcement provides ample opportunity for notarios who want to make a quick profit off the announcement. Below are some people to avoid when seeking legal assistance.

        • Anyone who charges for paper forms. All immigration forms will be freely accessible on the United Citizenship and Immigration Services website. Avoid any websites that do not have a .gov domain name.
      • Anyone who says you can apply for Deferred Action as a parent of a U.S. citizen now. The government will not begin accepting applications until May 2015.
      • Anyone who refuses to provide verification that they are a registered attorney.
      • Anyone who promises legal permanent status. The deferred action program is a temporary form of relief that provides protection from deportation and work permission for three years. It does not provide lawful permanent status or citizenship.
      • Anyone who requires cash payment

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.


Central American Migration Has Subsided, But Issues Remain: A Kansas City Immigration Attorney’s Take

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

This summer was dominated by headlines of the increased migration of mostly women and children from Central America, namely Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Immigration opponents used fear to exaggerate the issue. Some called it an invasion. Some blamed the migration on President Obama’s DACA program. Those stories have mostly subsided. However, the issues that caused the migration from these Central American countries have not changed. Many of the women and children, like Linda and her children, came to the U.S. fleeing abusive and violent partners and a government unable to protect them.

Linda was born and raised in Honduras. From the age of 20 to 22, she lived in her own personal hell. She rarely left her home. She either was not allowed to or was too afraid to leave. Her boyfriend controlled her emotionally and physically. He often came home drunk or high and beat her with a chain or belt on the stomach or back (so clothes would cover the bruises). He also often beat her 5 year old daughter.

One night, while Linda’s boyfriend was passed out on the couch, she fled to a friend’s house in a neighboring town. Two days later, though, her boyfriend, with the help of his friends, found her and dragged her back to the home. He beat her again, held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her and her family if she ever left again.

Unfortunately, this type of violence is common in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Due to a culture dominated by masculinity and violence, this treatment is often unreported by the victims, either because they are afraid of what will happen if they report the violence or because the authorities would not help. The crime rate in the region is one of the highest in the world. The police forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are inadequate and unable to stop gang violence, much less domestic violence.

Like many other women in the region, Linda’s only option was to flee. Eventually, with the help of her family, she was able to purchase a bus ticket to Mexico for her and her daughter and then crossed into the U.S.

In a recent case, the Board of Immigration Appeals recognized that women who suffer domestic abuse in their home country may be eligible for asylum. Asylum may be granted to individuals who can show a objective and subjective fear of harm on account of a protected characteristic, in this case the shared past experience as a victim of domestic abuse. After years of uncertainty, the Courts have finally recognized the cruelty in sending women like Linda and her children back to their countries and back to their abusers. Now it is time for the general public to understand this as well.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.


Kansas City Immigration Lawyer’s Take on “Get to the Back of the Line”

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

“You have to stand in line. You have to wait your turn behind everyone who applied before you legally.”

This was a statement by Senator Marco Rubio about immigration reform for the 10-12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Politicians and immigration reform critics often refer to this mythical line when bringing up immigration reform. It is a nice visual. It is easy to visualize the black and white videos of people arriving at Ellis Island and lining up for processing. But this image is not reality. For most of the undocumented people in the U.S., there simply is no line.

Take for example Jim. He came to the U.S. in 1997. His wife came to the U.S. one year later to join him. Jim found a meager construction job, and he and his wife started a family. They now have two children, ages 11 and 4. Both children are healthy and excel in school. Jim and his wife are active parents who encourage their children to participate in school and extracurricular activities. The children are successful because of their parent’s guidance.

Typically, there are three ways to get lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.: through family members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents, through employment, or through refugee protection. Jim has two brothers in the U.S. However, neither have status. Furthermore, Jim cannot obtain permanent residence through his children until they are 21 years old. There is no line for him there. Work visas are scant and require specialized work skills. Jim works general construction. He has no special skills that qualify him for a work visa. There is no line for him there. Jim does not qualify as a refugee. The definition for a refugee is restrictive. There is no line for him there either.

So what options does he have? One option is cancellation of removal. To request cancellation, however, the person requesting must be in removal proceedings, meaning the government is actively trying to deport them. Jim has no criminal history other than traffic tickets and is not an enforcement priority for the government. Jim would risk losing his family if he turned himself in for removal proceedings. Furthermore, he has a low chance of succeeding on his application for cancellation of removal. The current legal system rewards parents with children with special needs but punishes parents, like Jim, with successful children.

Jim and his wife qualify for the President’s recent deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizen children. However, this program does not create a “pathway to citizenship.” It does not provide Jim or other parents the same rights as permanent residents or U.S. citizens. It merely protects parents like Jim from deportation for three years and gives them permission to work in the U.S. There is no line or pathway to citizenship for Jim there either.

For most undocumented immigrants in the U.S., there is no line. Immigration law is complex and often unfair. It is a system of pathways with several detours and roadblocks, only some of which lead to permanent status and citizenship.


DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.


DACA Age Restrictions Lifted By New Obama Executive Action

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

President Obama finally announced his executive action on the enforcement of immigration laws. The actions are an important change of immigration priorities and are well within the President’s executive authority. One component of the president’s action involves the extension of DACA to anyone who is undocumented and entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and has resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. Prior to the announcement, only individuals who resided in the U.S. since 2007 and were under the age of 31 qualified for the DACA program. While the number of individuals affected is much smaller than the initial announcement, it does provide much needed relief to Dreamers who were overlooked in the initial DACA announcement. One of those overlooked individuals is Marissa.

Marissa lived on the U.S.-Mexico border most of her childhood. She entered the U.S. when she was 8 and went to school and lived with her mother and father in Texas. As she got older, she often traveled back to Mexico for work and to see her other family. However, by 2005, the border became violent, particularly in her family’s hometown in Mexico. In 2005, while walking to her aunt’s house, Marissa was mugged and assaulted. Two men hit her on the head with a pistol and stole her purse and phone. She was knocked unconscious, and the wound on her head required seven stitches. She has not returned to Mexico since 2005.

When DACA was announced in 2012, Marissa hoped she would qualify. However, she was 31 at the time pf the announcement. If she were five months younger she would qualify. With the extension of the DACA program, Marissa finally gets the security she seeks. She gets protection from deportation for 3 years, a valid driver’s license and social security number and permission to legally work in the U.S. It also provides her the potential opportunity to travel outside the U.S. with the permission of the U.S. government. This does not provide permanent status and does not create a “pathway to citizenship.” However, it does provide her the opportunity to stay in the country she calls her home.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expects to begin receiving applications under the new guidelines on February 18, 2015. Click here for more information on the new eligibility guidelines for the DACA program.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.

DAPA to Keep Families United By Providing Temporary Protection to Parents of Citizen, LPR children

The stories below are based off real client experiences. All names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

President Obama finally unveiled several executive actions regarding the enforcement of immigration laws. The depth of Obama’s executive action is impressive. One component of the president’s action involves the implementation of deferred action for parents of U.S. citizen or LPR children born on or before November 20, 2014. The parameters of the program are similar to DACA (including the name, DAPA). Parents qualify if they have lived continuously in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 and have not been convicted of certain crimes. This does not create a pathway to citizenship; however, it does provide the opportunity for families, like the Justice’s. to remain united in the U.S.

Jon and Tammy Justice came to the U.S. in 2002. They have two U.S. citizen children 10 and 4. Both children are healthy and happy. The 10-year-old excels in school. Jon works construction and Tammy cleans buildings for a living. Neither makes much money, but they make enough to buy a modest house and provide for their children. They pay their taxes, go to church every Sunday and have no criminal history. The Justice’s are model residents.

In their desire to gain legal status, the Justice’s relied on the help of a crooked attorney who promised them legal status by filing bogus applications for relief. They ended up in removal proceedings, facing potential deportation. They had little chance of success for relief. They were eligible to apply for cancellation of removal, but in a system of twisted priorities, they would not win because of their healthy and successful children.

DAPA does not provide a pathway to citizenship. But it gives them the family stability they need. It lets their children continue to grow in the U.S. And it lets this family stay together and continue to contribute to the local community and economy.

Click here for more information on President Obama’s recent executive action.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on their immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.

USICE Issues Guidance on Which Cases They Will Exercise Discretion

When President Obama was elected, many thought he would use the opportunity of a democratic majority to address the issue of immigration reform. This did not happen. With deportation cases at an all-time high and migration at an all-time low, the need for a comprehensive immigration law has never been clearer. For 2011, the Kansas City, Missouri Immigration Court, which handles cases from all over Kansas (including Wichita, Salina, and Western Kansas) and Missouri (including St. Louis), has a current case-load of 3,448. The average time a case remains pending is approximately 300 days.

Perhaps in a response to the number of cases and the lack of immigration reform on the horizon, recently Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton issued a memorandum, known as the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion, directing immigration agents to exercise discretion in removing people. In so doing, Director Morton reminded ICE the need to use good judgment in evaluating whether removal proceedings should be initiated and whether the case meets the priority guidelines set out by the Agency.

Morton Memo sets out a non-exhaustive list of opportunities under which prosecutorial discretion is appropriate. These circumstances include:

  • deciding to issue or cancel a notice of detainer;
  • deciding to issue, reissue, serve, file, or cancel a Notice to Appear(NTA);
  • focusing enforcement resources on particular administrative violations or conduct;
  • whom to stop, question, or arrest for an administrative violation;
  • deciding whom to detain or to release on bond, supervision, personal recognizance, or other condition;
  • seeking expedited removal or other forms of removal by means other than a formal removal proceeding in immigration court;
  • settling or dismissing a proceeding;
  • granting deferred action, granting parole, or staying a final order of removal;
  • agreeing to voluntary departure, the withdrawal of an application for admission, or other action in lieu of obtaining a formal order of removal;
  • pursuing an appeal;
  • executing a removal order; and
  • responding to or joining in a motion to reopen removal proceedings and to consider joining in a motion to grant relief or a benefit

The Memo goes on to provide an extensive, though not exclusive list of considerations to be examined in deciding if the use of prosecutorial discretion. These considerations include:

  • the agency’s civil immigration enforcement priorities;
  • the person’s length of presence in the United States, with particular consideration given to presence while in lawful status;
  • the circumstances of the person’s arrival in the United States and the manner of his or her entry, particularly if the alien came to the United States as a young child;
  • the person’s pursuit of education in the United States, with particular consideration given to those who have graduated from a U.S. high school or have successfully pursued or are pursuing a college or advanced degrees at a legitimate institution of higher education in the United States;
  • whether the person, or the person’s immediate relative, has served in the U.S. military, reserves, or national guard, with particular consideration given to those who served in combat;
  • the person’s criminal history, including arrests, prior convictions, or outstanding arrest warrants;
  • the person’s immigration history, including any prior removal, outstanding order of removal, prior denial o f status, or evidence o f fraud;
  • whether the person poses a national security or public safety concern;
  • the person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships;
  • the person’s ties to the home country and condition in the country;
  • the person’s age, with particular consideration given to minors and the elderly;
  • whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent;
  • whether the person is the primary caretaker o f a person with a mental or physical disability, minor, or seriously ill relative;
  • whether the person or the person’s spouse is pregnant or nursing;
  • whether the person or the person’s spouse suffers from severe mental or physical illness;
  • whether the person’s nationality renders removal unlikely;
  • whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as a relative of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
  • whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as an asylum seeker, or a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime; and
  • whether the person is currently cooperating or has cooperated with federal, state or local law enforcement authorities, such as ICE, the U.S Attorneys or Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, or National Labor Relations Board, among others.

These criterias signal a shift in the overzealous enforcement efforts of the past and while it does not go so far as to effectively halt removal of Dream Act kids or deactivate the Secure Communities program, it does show some progress in common sense immigration enforcement. Although a complete and effective overhaul remains elusive and it is unlikely that such change will come before the next election, this is a good start. The question, however, that remains unanswered is exactly how long it will take to implement the directives set out in the Morton Memo. Read the full memo on the Sharma-Crawford Facebook page.

Sharma-Crawford, Attorneys at Law is a Kansas City, Missouri, firm deeply experienced in the complexities of immigration litigation. Whether you are facing criminal or civil litigation in state, federal or immigration court, in Kansas or Missouri – the caring professionals at Sharma-Crawford can help you navigate through the complex legal system. For more information, please call (913) 385-9821 or visit The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The information contained in this article is general information and should not be considered legal counsel.