The 15-Year Prison Sentence Is Over

The statute of limitations on being undocumented is over. As of August 1, 2014, I am a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The actual process was easy, but that is probably because I’m an attorney. Last December, we had a 7 minute interview to prove that we had a bona-fide marriage. After that, I requested that DHS move to terminate proceedings, which they did quite gladly. I finally applied directly with the USCIS for a green card in mid-April. On August 1, 2014, we had the actual green-card interview, which lasted 10 minutes before the Immigration Officer changed my status in the system.

People have asked me how it feels. It actually doesn’t feel any different. I don’t have any sudden outpouring love for this place. Maybe once I’m out of this country, I’ll realize how good I have it, and feel like coming back.

Or not.

Adios.

Obama’s Immigration Announcement Creates New Generation of “Undocumented and Unafraid”

President Obama’s directive to affirmatively issue deferred action to DREAM Act eligible youth is fostering a new generation of “undocumented and unafraid” students who will be spared from deportation. But it isn’t just young people who are coming out in throes. It is also our parents.

At the National DREAM Graduation in Washington D.C., which was the largest gathering of undocumented students ever, Alejandra Pimentel, an undocumented mother, addressed an audience of undocumented youth. She spoke about fighting her son’s deportation, and shared some great words with the young people in the room, telling us that her dream was our success and that we should never give up. She told us that because of us, she was undocumented and unafraid.

But Pimental is not the only mother who is coming out as undocumented and unafraid. Across the country, at community gatherings, workshops and town-halls about the new deferred action program, undocumented parents are showing up in large numbers with their undocumented and U.S. citizen children to gain some understanding of what the new Obama announcement does for them.

This bold new coming out by undocumented parents is ironic given that young undocumented immigrants have often been accused of being selfish for advocating for the DREAM Act as opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. Maybe we have always been right. Maybe piecemeal immigration reform is the way to go, adding ingredient by ingredient till everyone can share in the pie. Undocumented parents coming out of the shadows to seek some sort of status for their kids certainly cements our claim that our dreams were never selfish–they are in fact, tied to the dreams that our parents had for us in bringing us to this land of opportunity. And deferred action for DREAMers is emboldening them as much as young people into coming out of the shadows.

I was at JEB Stuart High School in Northern Virginia last week, helping my law firm conduct a workshop about deferred action for members of the community and over 400 parents showed up to listen intently, ask questions and seek help for their children. We stayed for over 3 hours and ran out of our materials. The next day, our phones at the office did not stop ringing.

While some organizations are discouraging young immigrants and their parents from seeing immigration attorneys regarding the new program, within the last week alone, we’ve told a DREAMer that he is in fact, a U.S. citizen, assisted someone in registering for the GED, discovered an in absentia order of deportation, discouraged a DREAMer from engaging in marriage fraud, and discovered a entire undocumented family that should have received their green-cards a long time ago. An undocumented mother told me last week after consulting with our law firm that she was finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It is thus, critical, that we should straddle the fine line between warning people of scammers and notarios, while encouraging people to seek legal advice.

At DreamActivist.org, we released a FAQ explaining deferred action, which received over 10,000 downloads within a couple days. Well over a thousand people have emailed to ask whether they are eligible for the program and to request legal support for more complicated cases. For perhaps the first time, people who were not already “undocumented and unafraid” are coming out to seek legal advice regarding their immigration history, and that is a good thing that we should all encourage especially since it is quite likely that many people qualify for far more than just deferred action.

Additionally, the renewed coming out is not restricted to community forums and law firms. The USCIS has already stated that the parents of everyone granted deferred action will not be put into deportation proceedings, so there is nothing to fear by seeking information. The government agency reports getting over 75,000 calls concerning the program. They have hired over 100 new staff to process applications, which could take anywhere from 5 to 9 months. Despite criticism that DREAMers would take away jobs from American citizens, the new program is already creating jobs for Americans.

From undocumented and unafraid, we are increasingly becoming documented and unafraid. Immigration attorney, Andres Benach, has suggested that by applying and receiving deferred action, young immigrants and our parents will further integrate themselves into American society. We would have driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and jobs. We would be able to rent apartments, go to college, buy homes, pay more taxes, take care of our parents, invest in our communities, get married and have children.

As our roots grow, it would be much harder than it is now to uproot us from America and the appetite for the social disruption of deporting us will will decrease exponentially. Hence, even if a Republican such as Mitt Romney is elected to office, it is doubtful that she or he would order the deportation of millions of DREAMers, along with our families. Congress will have to act as it did with NACARA, and grant permanent residency to DREAMers living in an amorphous legal state under deferred action.

Thus, I believe that any future DREAM Act would be short, simple and sweet: anyone granted deferred action under the premises of the DREAM Act or anyone who was eligible for DREAM Act deferred action in 2012 shall be eligible for permanent residency.

If you haven’t come out as undocumented and unafraid, come out of the shadows. The only thing you have to lose is your chains.

FOIA: Lets Make Up Dates!

I finally got my FOIA documents from the Department of Homeland Security, courtesy my brilliant lawyer.

There’s nothing of interest or importance in the stack of 300-something pages besides this one page, where the officer puts down that I entered the country on May 12, 2010, with the right to remain till November 12, 2010:

Do recall, that the actual Notice to Appear states that I was “admitted to the United States at Los Angeles, California on or around November 13, 1999 as a non-immigrant B-2 visitor for pleasure with authorization to remain in the United States for a temporary period not to exceed November 10, 1999.”

It’s pretty obvious that none of this is actually true. And it is hilarious, considering a copy of my F-2 and I-94 are in my immigration files.

I’m going to start making up random dates for things too, because if the government can do it, I can too!

No?

Of course, my lawyer will probably say it’s not the U.S. government. It’s just USCIS.

AILA Issues Warning For Immigrant Rights Activists

The American Immigration Lawyers Association issued a warning to immigrant rights activists asking them to behave at their upcoming annual conference in San Diego:

There is no question that activism in the communities also is helping to move the ball forward.  Those who are so engaged have our respect, admiration and at times involvement. That being said, a professional gathering is not a setting for such forms of activism.  We ask that people who are attending the conference behave as the professionals and aspiring professionals that they are, and treat speakers with at least minimal courtesy.  Disruptions at a conference of professionals can hurt the dialog role that AILA plays.  And we all need to play the different roles we have to make the difference that needs to be made.

Some immigrant rights activists had earlier expressed concerns about AILA’s keynote speaker line-up of ICE Assistant Director John Morton and USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

I’m not even going to get into how the word “professional” is used to disparage lived experiences and police behavior, especially in this context. I’m also not sure about the need for such strong words especially since no one I know was planning to do anything besides have a good time.

Now the conference sounds like an open challenge to make a point. Maybe it does get better after all.

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On Meeting the Young Daughter of the Man Trying to Deport Me

I was invited, along with my friend Gaby Pacheco, to speak to 5th graders at the Georgetown Day School about the DREAM Act. I almost did not go but I can’t really say no to talking to young kids. Of course, I’m terrified of it as well — it isn’t anything I’ve ever done. Then again, I’ve never taken on the U.S. government either so I figure it cannot be that hard.

I had a great time. Gaby did most of the talking. She’s a natural teacher. I’m more of a lecturer and stood around looking good in a suit. The kids were fantastically engaging, with some of their parents in Congress or state legislatures.

A young woman asked us why we chose to act. I think both of us teared up a bit. Gaby did a great job answering that when someone beside you is getting hurt, you have to stand up and fight. And when that someone is you, I don’t think you really have a choice. I have already stated before that being a Dreamer is like being drafted into a war that you never wanted to fight but you have to do so to survive and protect your family from violence.

We met with one gorgeous young woman, whose father happens to be our very own Alejandro Mayorkas at USCIS, the guy whose the head of the office that sent me a letter to appear for removal proceedings. Mayorkas is one of the good guys. Last year, A. Mayorkas suggested in a draft memo that the President could grant deferred action to everyone who qualified for the DREAM Act. A right-winger got hold of the memo, sent it to more rabid anti-immigrant Senators who leaked it to the gullible media, who then helped to characterize the memo as a backdoor amnesty program. The rest is history.

Next month, we’ll meet with Mayorkas and the kids will ask him to once again push the President to grant deferred action to all DREAM Act-eligible students. I keep wondering how Mayorkas would feel if his kid was the one getting deported and despite having papers, there is nothing he could do for his child. It’s a terrifying thought but it is precisely what my mother is going through right now.

One clever young man appeared confused. He asked us why the President could not simply stop deporting all immigrants. It was a rather simple question and the answer is even more simple. But our President does not seem to fathom the simple concept that maybe we should not deport people who have done nothing wrong. I don’t know why children always seem so much smarter than adults. Maybe we regress with age instead of progressing.

It’s time to start hitting the rich private schools in the area and getting the kids informed about immigrant rights while they are young. They are certain to take it back to the dinner table and ask their parents: why are we deporting such talented, bright and productive young people from the country?

Theory of change. Get it.

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