When an Immigration Judge has found that a person is illegally present in the United States, it does not necessarily follow that he will be removed. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides many types of relief from removal. Among these are (1) waivers of excludability and deportability; (2) cancellation of removal for permanent residents; (3) cancellation of removal for non-permanent residents; (4) suspension of removal; (5) adjustment of status to permanent residence; (5) asylum and withholding of removal; (6) legalization and registry and, if all else fails, (7) voluntary departure.
The immigration law enumerates various grounds by which an alien in the United States may be subject to removal from the U.S. A common ground of removability provides that an alien may be subject to removal if he was excludable when he entered the United States. There are many grounds of removability found in the law.
Eligibility for waivers of removability depends upon the alien’s ability to establish hardship to himself or to his close family members if he were to be removed from the U.S. For example, a person who has committed fraud or a material misrepresentation may apply for a waiver under §212(i) if the failure to admit him to the U.S. would result in “extreme hardship” to his lawful permanent resident (LPR) or U.S. citizen (USC) spouse or parents. Similarly, a person who is excludable on certain criminal grounds may be eligible for a waiver under §212(h) if the failure to admit him to the U.S. would result in “extreme hardship” to his LPR or USC spouse, parent(s), son(s) or daughter(s).
Certain types of waivers such as relief for long-term permanent residents under section 212(c) do not require that the permanent resident have relatives in the U.S. although the presence of such relatives is definitely a positive factor.
CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL FOR PERMANENT RESIDENTS
INA §240A(a) allows the Attorney General (usually an Immigration Judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals) to cancel the removal of a lawful permanent resident from the U.S. if:
• He has been an LPR for a minimum of five years;
• He has resided continuously in the U.S. for a minimum of seven years after being admitted to the U.S. in any status (prior to the institution of removal proceedings);
• He has not been convicted of an aggravated felony;
• He is not inadmissible from the U.S. on security grounds.
The following classes of persons are ineligible for cancellation of removal:(1) Certain crewmen; (2) Exchange visitors (in “J” status) who received medical training in the U.S.; (3) Persons who have persecuted others; (4) Persons who have previously been granted cancellation of removal, suspension of removal (See below.) or relief under §212(c); and (5) Persons who committed certain criminal offenses prior to the accrual of the required seven years.
Positive factors include: (1) Family ties within the U.S.; (2) Long time residency in the U.S.; (3) Hardship to person and immediate family; (4) Service in U.S. Armed Forces; (5) Employment history; (6) Ownership of property and business ties; (7) Service to the community; (8) Rehabilitation (if criminal record exists); and (9) Good moral character.
Negative factors include: (1) Nature and circumstances of exclusion grounds; (2) Other immigration law violations; (3) Criminal record; and (4) Other evidence of bad character.
CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL FOR NON-PERMANENT RESIDENTS
INA §240A(b) allows the Attorney General (usually an Immigration Judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals) to cancel the removal of a non-permanent resident from the U.S. who:
Has been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of ten years prior to the institution of removal proceedings. (This requirement is not applicable to persons who have served a minimum of 24 months in the U.S. Armed Forces, was present in the U.S. during his enlistment or induction, and is either serving honorably or has received an honorable discharge.) “Continuous” means that the person cannot be out of the U.S. for more than 90 days at a time, or 180 days in the aggregate, during the ten-year period.
• Has been a person of good moral character for ten years;
• Is not inadmissible under §212(a)(2) or (3) (criminal and security grounds) or deportable under §237(a)(1)(G) (marriage fraud), (2) (criminal grounds), (3) (failure to register and falsification of documents) or (4) (security and related grounds).
• Whose removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his/her spouse, parent, or child, who is a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
• Special relaxed rules for cancellation of removal apply to battered spouses and children.
Only 4,000 persons may be granted cancellation of removal and suspension of removal (See below.) in a single fiscal year.
SUSPENSION OF REMOVAL
Any expulsion proceedings commenced on or after April 1, 1997 are removal proceedings rather than removal or exclusion proceedings.
However, persons who were placed in removal proceedings prior to April 1, 1997 as well as NACARA applicants may still be eligible for suspension of removal.
A deportable alien may apply for permanent residence through suspension of removal if he is able to fulfill the following 3 conditions:
• He must have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least seven years. Absences which are “brief, casual and innocent” do not interrupt the continuity of the alien’s physical presence.
• He must be a person of good moral character.
• It must be an extreme hardship upon the alien, or his spouse, children or parents who are citizens or residents of the United States if he were forced to leave the country.
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS
A deportable alien who is the parent, spouse, widow or child of a U.S. citizen may be eligible to apply to the Judge to adjust his status to that of a lawful permanent resident. Also qualified to apply for adjustment of status are many aliens whose priority dates for permanent residence are “current”.
Aliens who obtained conditional permanent residence based upon their marriage, or the marriage of their alien parent, to a U.S. citizen may have their legal status terminated by the DHS if they fail to meet certain requirements. However, once DHS places them under removal proceedings, they may renew their applications for permanent residence before an Immigration Judge.
ASYLUM AND WITHHOLDING OF REMOVAL
Those who have a well-founded fear of persecution if they return to their home country may apply for asylum if their fear is based on any of the following grounds:
• Political opinion
• Religious belief
• Membership in a particular social group
If a person is granted asylum, after one year they may apply for permanent resident status.
Withholding of removal is similar to asylum. However, it differs in 2 important respects: (1) It does not permit the alien to apply for permanent residence, and (2) it only prohibits the DHS from deporting the alien to one particular country.
LEGALIZATION AND REGISTRY
Once a person has been found qualified for legalization or “amnesty” by the DHS, the removal hearing will typically be closed since the alien will have attained the legal right to remain in the United States.
Registry is another means of attaining lawful permanent residence in the United States. It is available to aliens who have resided continuously in the U.S. since prior to January 1, 1972, who are persons of good moral character, who are not deportable on certain aggravated grounds, and who are not ineligible to citizenship.
Finally, if there is no other relief from removal, most aliens are eligible for, and should apply for, voluntary departure from the United States. This avoids both the stigma and the legal impediments to return to the United States imposed by removal.
Voluntary departure is available to aliens who are not deportable on aggravated grounds, who have the means to pay for their departure from the U.S., who agree to depart within a period of time granted by the Immigration Judge, and who can establish good moral character during the previous five-year period.
All forms of relief from removal, except withholding of removal, may be granted at the discretion of an Immigration Judge. Final orders of an Immigration Judge may be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and in certain cases to the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals.
Our office has helped many people from being removed. We are licensed to practice before all immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal, which has jurisdiction over Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. Time is of the essence when facing removal, please contact our office as soon as possible, so we can discuss what defenses you may have.