I get this question a lot. Despite having current immigration options, it is still scary to expose a loved one to the immigration system when she has been living under the radar for years and there is a chance of denial in any immigration case. However, I also hate to hear when people get their hopes up that a new immigration law is going to protect their loved one who has been here illegally for years or provide for work permit solely to stop working under the table. They often it calls from people who heard something on the news about a congressional representative or even the president talking about immigration and the need to immigration reform and there has been talk for the last 12 years of a guest worker program as well as the Dream act for students who are here undocumented you want go to college. However, any legislation that has been introduced into Congress has either stalled in committee or not passed one house in Congress to move forward. This reflects the reality of the current anti-immigration climate that has existed since the September 11th tragedy.
245(i), the previous provision that expired on April 30, 2001, which allowed an undocumented person to get their green card in the United States despite illegal entry if the immigrant had an immigrant visa or labor cert filed by an employer or immigrant visa filed for the immigrant by a family member by that date, has not been renewed in Congress since it expired. 245(i)I has been introduced every year and has failed. This reflects the realism that immigrants don’t have the political backing to get anything passed that would provide positive new benefits at this stage.
In addition, in addition to September 11th, since 2007 and worsening in 2008, the U.S. economy has been in a recession and many U.S. citizens have been out of work. These are the same U.S. citizens who vote congressional members into office and so these Senators and Representatives listen to them. There has been even more anger against immigrants in the failed economy who continue to work for lower wages and under the table as U.S. citizens are having difficulty finding minimum wage jobs in parts of the US. Although blaming immigrants is not justified as they usually take the jobs in the us citizens want, it’s the kiss of death for any Congressperson to side with introducing positive immigration benefits in many districts. Immigrants have little clout in Congress because they have no right to vote. Until the economy improves and assuming we can keep a democratic Congress and democratic President in the executive office, there is no chance of immigration reform. I advise my clients to focus on the reality of what the law is now and what options are available to them under the current climate (which is more centered on immigration law enforcement than providing benefits). It’s sad because immigrants and their loved ones hear something on the news that sounds positive and if my clients hear this, they know they can always call us, but we warn that if it sounds too good be true, especially in this climate, it usually is.