Fear and concern are palpable in the immigrant community and rightfully so. Many legal residents who have valid green cards, or Permanent Residency Cards, or valid work and student visas are hesitant about traveling overseas, even though they are not even from the seven countries that Donald Trump’s executive order of Jan. 27, 2017, tried to keep out. And undocumented migrants are terrified.
So here’s what you should know and do as an immigrant in Trump’s America right now:
The Trump executive ban
As of Feb. 5, 2017, the date this column was written, the Trump administration’s travel ban slapped on green card holders, visa holders, dual citizens and refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended by a federal court. No one affected by the Jan. 27 immigration executive order should be prevented from traveling because of the ban.
However, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Chicago Chapter; the National Immigrant Justice Center; and attorneys of the law firms Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. and Michael R. Jarecki, LLC are advising immigrants returning to the U.S. or traveling here to know their rights.
They advise legal permanent residents (green card holders) of the seven countries listed above to be prepared for lengthy questioning and inspection upon return to the U.S. Your phones, emails, social media pages, etc. may be searched for information by Customs and Immigration agents who are looking to see if you are against the United States. Expect it to take several hours from when you land to when you leave the airport, the attorneys warn.
Be wary of certain immigration officers at some U.S. airports who might try to force you as a legal permanent resident to sign Form I-407. Do not sign this form, warn the attorneys, because it could mean voluntarily giving up your legal permanent residency status.
If you are traveling to the U.S. with a visitor’s visa and are from one of the seven countries, or you are a dual citizen, send a copy of the personal data page of your passport and your visa stamp or entry documents to a family member who will wait for you at the airport, so they can provide this information to an immigration attorney if you have problems at the airport. Some customs agents are still trying to deny entry to visa holders, despite the judge’s national order.
If you are in the United States but are a citizen of one of the affected countries and you must travel outside the U.S., consult an immigration lawyer before doing so and make sure you also travel with the lawyer’s contact information in case you run into problems.
If you have been living in the U.S. longer than four years and nine months as a permanent resident, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship. Do so without delay.
If you are stopped by immigration at the airport and you are afraid to return to your country for any reason, tell the immigration officer you want asylum. This request is your right and the executive order does not limit this right. Please know, however, that if you request asylum, you may be detained until you have passed an interview regarding your fear of return to your country. The interview may take days or weeks.
Advice to green card holders and undocumented immigrants on how to avoid deportation
Rickford Burke of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy warns immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to do the following:
Obey the law at all times to avoid arrest, and carry a valid state ID and/or work permit. If arrested, you have a right to remain silent as well as a right to an attorney.
Do not operate a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license issued to you by a U.S. state. Do not carry any false/fraudulent documents that do not correspond to your identity. Do not drive with, or use of what is known as an “international driver’s license” or an “international driver’s permit.” These documents, say Bruke, are unlawful or fraudulent instruments and presenting them to a police officer could be a felony.
If a law enforcement officer issues a summons/ticket to you for a moving violation or quality of life infraction such as being in a park after hours, urinating in public, jaywalking, riding on the sidewalk, crossing in between subway train cars, spitting on the train, etc., do not become a scofflaw. Pay all fines and/or ensure you attend every court hearing until the matter is completely resolved, and make sure you obtain a certificate of disposition.
If you are arrested and prosecuted for a committing a crime, do not accept a misdemeanor and/or felony plea agreements without the advice of both a criminal defense and an immigration attorney. Violations are acceptable in some circumstances but consult a criminal defense and an immigration attorney before accepting a plea for a violation. Pleading guilty to crimes without the advice of counsel could jeopardize your permanent resident status, prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen, make you ineligible for permanent residence or U.S. citizenship and make you deportable.
Permanent residents and persons who are out of status or undocumented, who have felony and/or misdemeanor convictions for deportable offenses or crimes of moral turpitude, should, in contemplation of being deported, consult an immigration attorney regarding their status. These individuals should also avoid international as well as interstate travel within the U.S., as they may be subject to questioning and/or detention by ICE agents.
Create a safety plan in case you are arrested and/or detained by immigration. Identify your emergency contact and memorize the phone number. Memorize your “Alien” number and give it to your emergency contact. Provide your child’s school or day care with the emergency contact name and phone number and provide authorization for the emergency contact to pick up your child. Provide authorization for your emergency contact to make medical and legal decisions for your child, and keep your passport, identity information, proof of physical presence in the U.S. and financial information in a safe location and make sure your emergency contact can access them.
Beware of notaries or bad attorneys making false promises. Some individuals may try to take advantage of immigrants at this time. Make sure you seek legal consultations from reputable organizations. You can check attorney credentials at iardc.org.
The writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc. which owns the brands NewsAmericasNow, CaribPRWire and InvestCaribbeanNow.